Dec 20 2013
The jury in the trial of two former personal assistants accused of defrauding Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi is due to continue its deliberations today.
Francesca Grillo, 35, and her sister Elisabetta, 41, are alleged to have used company credit cards to spend £685,000 on items, including designer shoes and clothes, for themselves.
They had been employed as PAs by the TV cook and her multi-millionaire art dealer ex-husband, who were divorced earlier this year.
The jury of seven men and five women were sent out yesterday morning after a three-week trial at Isleworth Crown Court in west London.
Before they left at the end of the day, Judge Robin Johnson told them that one of the defendants was unwell, adding that he had "no doubt" her illness was genuine.
He said: "You will have noticed that neither defendant is in the dock. One of them is not feeling well. I have no doubt it is a genuine feeling not well and I have allowed her sister to be with her.
"I am sure you won't hold that against them."
Mr Saatchi has been accused of using the trial against the Grillo sisters to "attack" his former wife, from whom he was divorced earlier this year.
Anthony Metzer QC, defence counsel for Elisabetta, said she had been caught in the "crossfire" between the former couple.
The jury in Court 8 heard details of an email sent by Mr Saatchi in which he accused Ms Lawson of being off her head on drugs and branding her "Higella".
He said in that message: "Of course, now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you... were so off your heads on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and, yes, I believe every word the Grillos have said, who after all only stole money."
Ms Lawson revealed during the trial that she took cocaine with her late husband, John Diamond, when he found out he had terminal cancer, and on another occasion in July 2010 during her troubled marriage to Mr Saatchi.
But the 53-year-old, who also admitted to smoking cannabis, told the court the idea that she is a "drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous".
The food writer claimed her 10-year marriage to Mr Saatchi became so unhappy that it drove her to drugs, which made an "intolerable situation tolerable".
In her evidence, Francesca said she "frequently" found rolled-up bank notes with white powder on them in Ms Lawson's handbags.
The Grillos, of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, 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.