Nigella: Saatchi tried to 'destroy' me with false drug claims

London - British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson told a court on Wednesday that her ex-husband Charles Saatchi tried to "destroy her" by making false allegations about her using cocaine.

Testifying at the trial of two assistants accused of defrauding the couple, Lawson said the multi-millionaire art dealer wanted revenge after she refused to back him over paparazzi pictures that showed him gripping her by the throat.

"He had said to me if I didn't get back to him and clear his name he would destroy me," Lawson, 53, told Isleworth Crown Court in London.

"I have been put on trial here, where I am called to answer, and glad to answer the allegations, and the world's press, and it comes after a long summer of bullying and abuse.

"I find it's another chapter in that."

The allegations of drug use by the self-styled "Domestic Goddess" first emerged last week in an email from Saatchi that was read out at the start of the trial of personal assistants Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo.

The Grillo sisters both deny fraudulently spending £685,000 ($1.1 million, 820,000 euros) on Saatchi's company credit cards.

Lawson, who has made a fortune with a series of cookery books and television shows in Britain and the United States, split with Saatchi this year after 10 years of marriage following the throat-grabbing incident at the upmarket Scott's restaurant in London.

Wearing a black fitted coat, an impassive-looking Lawson was flanked by seven police officers as she walked into the court building past a scrum of photographers and television cameramen on Wednesday.

In her evidence, Lawson told the court that after the "awful incident at Scott's" false allegations of drug use began circulating on a "PR blog".

The allegations on the blog were "dedicated to salvaging Mr Saatchi's reputation and destroying mine", Lawson said.

She painted a bleak picture of the end of her marriage to the 70-year-old former advertising guru, describing him as being quick to become angry.

"He did have a temper and I don't think that anyone can be in any doubt he had a temper," Lawson said.

Saatchi "didn't like to take part in family life" and her independence tended to "irritate" him, added Lawson, who has two children from a previous marriage.

But she took exception to the line of questioning by a lawyer for the defendants, saying: "I don't understand why my marriage is pertinent to you."

Saatchi last week told the court he had no proof that his ex-wife had taken drugs but admitted he had sent an email claiming she was "off her head".

Saatchi said he was "utterly bereft" that the private email had been made public.

Saatchi accepted a police caution over the throat-grabbing incident but said he was disappointed she had refused to say publicly that he had not abused her.

Lawson meanwhile said Elisabetta Grillo had once been her "rock" but lacked "a very strong moral compass".

Grillo had helped Lawson through a "very difficult time" after the death from cancer of her first husband, journalist John Diamond, in 2001, she said.

But Lawson said she was "flabbergasted" by the extent of the alleged spending by the two sisters, which is said to have been on luxury goods, first-class transatlantic flights and hotels.

"It's very difficult when you find out that someone you have loved and trusted could behave that way," she said.