'White powder in Nigella's handbag'

Published Tuesday, 17 December 2013
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Nigella Lawson's personal assistant has told a court that she would "frequently" find rolled-up banknotes with white powder on them in the chef's handbag.

'White powder in Nigella's handbag'
Nigella Lawson arriving at court earlier this month. (© Getty)

Francesca Grillo is on trial with her sister Elisabetta accused of defrauding Nigella and former husband Charles Saatchi.

Taking the stand at Isleworth Crown Court in west London on Monday, Francesca said she never saw the TV cook taking drugs although she did find evidence of drug use on many occasions.

She explained how she first found the rolled-up notes in the kitchen of Nigella's Shepherd's Bush home following a party.

The former PA also claimed to find some in a guest bedroom.

Grillo told the court one of her jobs was to exchange items between Nigella's 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."

Nigella would tell Francesca "you're good at finding things" and ask her to look for belongings in her handbags, the jury heard.

She also told them Nigella would sometimes come downstairs with white powder on her nose and Francesca would point it out to her, but would be told by the cook it was make-up.

Asked by defence counsel Karina Arden if the substance could have been make-up, Grillo replied: "Too white to be make-up."

She also noted that the TV cook often had a runny nose, the court heard.

Francesca Grillo, 35, and her sister Elisabetta, 41, are accused of committing fraud by abusing their positions as personal assistants by using a company credit card for personal gain.

The court has heard the siblings bought designer clothes, shoes and luxury holidays on the cards for an amount of up to £685,000.

The Grillos, of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, each deny the charge, which is alleged to have taken place between January 1, 2008 and December 31 last year.

Francesca also recalled how she improvised an excuse to protect her employer when a child discovered a hollow book containing what the employee thought were drugs.

The defendant told the court: "She (the child) said 'Look what I found in (the) book!'.

"It was a small plastic bag with white powder. I made up something."

Grillo said the clandestine book also contained items of jewellery belonging to Nigella's late husband John Diamond.

She told the court: "I didn't speak to Nigella (about the discovery).

"I didn't think it was my place. I felt close to her but I didn't think it was a nice subject."

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

She told the court: "Tazepam, Xanax... Ms Lawson had medication for depression.

"She would take it directly from the bottle."

© UTV News
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