LONDON - Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson told a court she had taken cocaine several times including when being subjected to "intimate terrorism" by her millionaire ex-husband Charles Saatchi, in the latest dramatic twist in a trial that has gripped Britain.
A well-known TV star and author in Britain and the United States, Lawson also told the court on Wednesday she had smoked cannabis occasionally in the final year of her marriage to art dealer Saatchi but had "never been a drug addict or abuser".
"I don't have a drug problem, I have a life problem," said Lawson, nicknamed the "Domestic Goddess" after the title of one of her best-selling recipe books.
The 53-year-old was testifying at the trial of two of her personal assistants who are facing fraud charges relating to the alleged misuse of 685,000 pounds ($1.12 million) on a credit card belonging to Saatchi's company.
Last week the assistants' defence counsel said there was a tacit understanding they could spend what they liked as long as they did not tell anyone about Lawson's drug use. They deny the fraud charges. The court has also heard Saatchi wrote Lawson an email in which he accused her of being "off her head" on drugs.
Lawson said on Wednesday she had taken cocaine on six occasions with her first husband, journalist John Diamond, as he was dying of throat cancer in 2001.
"It was a small amount but it gave him some escape," said the cook, who is due to feature as a mentor and judge in US TV cooking competition show "The Taste" in the new year, on Walt Disney Co's ABC network.
She said she also used the drug in July 2010. "I was having a very, very difficult time," Lawson said. "I felt subjected to intimate terrorism by Mr. Saatchi," she said.
"I would say with some shame that I (also) smoked the odd joint in the last year of my marriage (to Saatchi). I am now totally drug-free," she added.
Lawson and Saatchi, 70, ended their 10-year marriage in July, and he accepted a police caution after newspapers published pictures of him with his hands around his ex-wife's neck at a London restaurant a month earlier.
The fraud case has exposed the bitter rows between them, once one of Britain's most famous couples. Interest in the case has also been stoked by the extent to which the assistants allegedly treated themselves to lavish purchases on the credit card and the drug allegations leveled at Lawson.
Flanked by police officers, Lawson arrived at Isleworth Crown Court in west London on Wednesday to a barrage of flashlights and TV arc lights from jostling media crews from around the world.