Live updates

Jury retires in fraud trial of Nigella's former PAs

The jury in the trial of two sisters accused of defrauding Nigella Lawson and her former husband Charles Saatchi has been sent out to consider its verdicts.

Francesca Grillo, 35, and her sister Elisabetta, 41, are alleged to have spent £685,000 on credit cards belonging to the TV cook and her art dealer ex-husband.

Sisters Elisabetta (left) and Francesca Grillo are accused of committing fraud. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The Grillo sisters each deny a single count of committing fraud by using a company credit card for personal gain between January 1, 2008, and December 31 last year.

Former PA caught in 'cross-fire' of Lawson Saatchi split

Elisabetta Grillo was caught in the "cross-fire" between Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson, a court has heard.

The 41-year-old along with her sister Francesca denies a single count of committing fraud by using a company credit card for personal gain.

Sisters Elisabetta (left) and Francesca Grillo, former personal assistants to Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson Credit: PA Wire

Anthony Metzer QC, defence counsel for Elisabetta, claimed the former aide was "caught in collateral cross-fire" between Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson, like the child of divorcing parents.

Metzer questioned why Saatchi had failed to carry out a full investigation into all of his staff after the fraud allegations came to light, claiming Saatchi knew "Lisa (Elisabetta) was a soft underbelly for attacking Ms Lawson".

Advertisement

Charles Saatchi 'attacking Nigella Lawson by trial'

Charles Saatchi has been accused of using the trial of his two former personal assistants to attack his ex-wife Nigella Lawson.

Francesca Grillo, 35, and her sister Elisabetta, 41, are alleged to have spent £685,000 on credit cards belonging to the TV cook and her art dealer ex-husband, who were divorced in July.

Charles Saatchi has been accused of using the trial of his two former personal assistants to attack his ex-wife. Credit: PA Wire

Anthony Metzer QC, defence counsel for Elisabetta, asked the jury at Isleworth Crown Court, west London: "Could it be Mr Saatchi was using this as a way to attack Ms Lawson by proxy?

"By turning on one of her most trusted and loved people?"

He added: "As his relationship with Ms Lawson started to unravel and he lost control of her, he looked for a place to put his hurt and anger."

Both Grillo sisters deny the charge.

Lawson aide accused of 'abusing her position'

Prosecutor Jane Carpenter accused Francesca Grillo of abusing her position as a personal assistant, and said she had been "exaggerating throughout the evidence".

You have tried to get this jury to believe Ms Lawson has authorised these payments. You want them to believe what you're saying.

– Jane Carpenter

I want them to believe the truth. I have great faith in them.

If you are innocent, you don't have to fear.

– Francesca Grillo

Both of the Grillo sisters deny fraud.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow morning.

Aide: Money spent on foreign trips 'was authorised'

The court heard details of many overseas trips made by Francesca Grillo to destinations including Paris, New York and Amsterdam, staying at top hotels and shopping in designer stores.

In November 2010, she went to Berlin, spending thousands of pounds, but claimed all her spending had been authorised.

"I appreciate it's an expensive weekend away but it was my birthday and it was authorised," Grillo told the jury.

Francesca Grillo on the right seen entering court this morning. Credit: ITV News

Prosecutor Jane Carpenter said: "It is ridiculous to suggest Miss Lawson was letting you spend in this way. She didn't authorise such expenditure."

But Grillo replied: "She was extremely generous, not just generous. I am telling the truth."

Grillo also spoke of trips taken to her family home in Calabria, adding that Ms Lawson allowed her to buy presents for relatives in Italy with the company credit cards.

Aide was 'best dressed' of couple's assistants

Asked by defence counsel Karina Arden if she thought she had ever done anything dishonest in relation to the credit card or the company taxi account, Francesca Grillo replied: "No... Absolutely not."

Under cross-examination from prosecutor Jane Carpenter, Grillo described her former employer Ms Lawson as "extremely generous".

She said she had a wardrobe featuring around 10 dresses from the high-end fashion retailer Miu Miu, costing between £300 and "several thousand" pounds.

It was put to the witness that she was the best-dressed of all personal assistants employed by the couple - and she drew a few ripples of laughter from the courtroom when she replied: "I can't help that. It comes in my DNA - I'm Italian.

"Maybe I dressed a bit better. I think we all dressed well."

Advertisement

Ex-assistant claims Saatchi warned: 'I will destroy you'

Multimillionaire Charles Saatchi told a personal assistant accused of defrauding him and former wife Nigella Lawson that he would "destroy" her, a court has heard.

Francesca Grillo said Mr Saatchi had a "personal vendetta" against her and sister Elisabetta, who also faces a charge of fraud.

She described a meeting with the art dealer after his financial director confronted the sisters with credit card statements

At Mr Saatchi's house, Francesca said he told her she was "stupid" for not accepting a deal with the financial advisor.

Francesca, of Italian descent, told the court: "He was banging on the table... He said I would end up in handcuffs."

She said the situation became "quite scary" as Mr Saatchi told her: "Hide anywhere in Italy but I will find you and destroy you."

Aide's drug allegations after Nigella pictures published

Francesca Grillo told the court she did not originally mention the alleged drug use in her first statement to police, but did so after photographs of Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair emerged in the press during the summer.

In the photos she appears to be crying. It shocked me because she said she didn't cry very often in public.

The one that stuck in my mind was the one of him picking her nose. Maybe he found something relating to drugs.

I maybe thought if he didn't know that, he probably didn't know about the authorisation - the allowance - of the signatures (by Ms Lawson, on personal expenditure).

– Francesca Grillo

Francesca, 35, and her sister Elisabetta Grillo, 41, deny charges of defrauding the celebrity couple by spending £685,000 on credit cards belonging to them.

PA: Nigella Lawson 'drank medication from the bottle'

Francesca Grillo said she found cannabis in a child's room in the home, and the television cook would swig from bottles containing liquid medication.

Francesca Grillo, arriving at court earlier in the trial on 4th December. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

She told the court: "Tazepam, Xanax... Ms Lawson had medication for depression."She would take it directly from the bottle."

Asked how frequently she would see Ms Lawson take medication in this way, Ms Grillo said: "Very often. She had one bottle in the kitchen and one bottle in the bedroom."

The witness said Ms Lawson later became "absent and grumpy", and had trouble sleeping.

Nigella aide 'frequently saw evidence of drug taking'

Nigella Lawson's former personal assistant "frequently" found rolled-up banknotes with white powder on them in the celebrity chef's handbag, she has told a court.

Francesca Grillo, arriving at court earlier last Tuesday. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Francesca Grillo, who along with her sister Elisabetta is on trial accused of defrauding Ms Lawson and former husband Charles Saatchi, said she never saw Ms Lawson taking drugs although she did find evidence of drug use on many occasions.

She said she first saw the rolled-up notes at the couple's Shepherd's Bush home, in the kitchen after a party and also in a guest bedroom.

One of her jobs as Ms Lawson's aide was to exchange items between her handbags, and she would find rolled-up banknotes in those.

Asked how often she found the banknotes, Grillo said: "Frequently. Every time I went through her handbag there was some notes. It was very frequent."Asked if she ever raised the issue of drugs, she replied: "No. I didn't think it was my place."

Francesca, 35, and Elisabetta Grillo, 41, deny charges of defrauding the celebrity couple by spending £685,000 on credit cards belonging to them.

Load more updates