Nigella 'reliable and professional'

Nigella Lawson was accused of stashing cocaine in a hollow book to hide her escalating habit, as she told a court she would never risk leaving her children as "orphans" by taking drugs.

The celebrity cook, who has admitted using cocaine and cannabis in the past, denied hiding the class A drug in the box containing her late husband's wedding rings as she gave evidence in the fraud trial of two of her former personal assistants.

Barrister Karina Arden, representing one of the defendants, Francesca Grillo, accused Ms Lawson of "very regular use of cocaine" which "escalated in the last five years".

"That is categorically not the case," Ms Lawson replied.

Under cross-examination at Isleworth Crown Court in west London, Ms Lawson said she had "never knowingly" met a drug dealer or exchanged money for cocaine.

Asked whether "dealers were turning up at the house", Ms Lawson replied: "No."

She denied keeping cocaine in a hollowed-out "fake book" alongside jewellery from her mother and two grandmothers.

The jewellery box also contained wedding rings she exchanged with her late husband John Diamond, including one he received after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, the court heard.

Ms Lawson's daughter and a friend discovered the box containing cocaine and called Francesca Grillo, who "tried to make up some sort of excuse to cover your back", Ms Arden said to Ms Lawson.

"No, I have never heard that," she replied.

The food writer was "in a high state of panic" after the book went missing when she moved house, Ms Arden added.

"I was in a high state of anxiety because I thought I had lost my late grandmothers' and late husband's jewellery and wedding rings," Ms Lawson replied.

"It does not need embellishment."

Ms Lawson said it was "completely wrong" to suggest that she frequently came downstairs at her home with white powder on her face or had a constant runny nose.

"I promise you... regular cocaine users do not look like this," she said.

"They are scrawny and look unhealthy.

"If you think I'm going to sabotage my health and leave my children as orphans, you are very wrong."

"In my life, I'm reliable, professional and calm," she added.

"I have no sense of being a drug taker of a habitual nature. I have owned up to drug use.

"If I was taking cocaine and cannabis to the extent you say, I wouldn't be standing here."

She admitted once joking about having a "cocaine habit" with a staff member as she applied make up.

As questions of her drug use continued, Ms Lawson said: "I really feel if you want to put me on trial, put me on trial. I don't feel it is right to have me here as a witness for the Crown and treat me like this."

Jurors were previously read an email sent to Ms Lawson from Charles Saatchi in which he said the defendants would "get off" on the basis that she was "so off her head" on drugs she allowed them to "spend whatever they liked".

Ms Lawson has also accused her multi-millionaire ex-husband of "peddling" stories about her alleged drug habit, including that he was checking her nose for cocaine when he was photographed gripping her throat outside Scott's restaurant in central London.

She said one of the reasons she did not start libel proceedings against Mr Saatchi was because she "can't afford it".

"I don't have a substantial fortune," she said.

The 53-year-old revealed yesterday she first took the class A drug with Mr Diamond when he found out he had terminal cancer, and on another occasion later during her troubled marriage to Mr Saatchi.

Earlier, Ms Lawson told the court she would rather be "honest and ashamed" than "bullied with lies" after revealing details of her past drug use.

The TV star said she was "not proud" after admitting she has taken cocaine and cannabis but denied her admission was "damage limitation".

"The fact is I would rather be honest and ashamed....I wasn't going to be bullied with lies," she said.

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

Prosecutors claim the Italian sisters lived the ''high life'', spending the money on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

The pair are accused of using credit cards loaned to them by the TV cook and her ex-husband Mr Saatchi to spend more than £685,000 on themselves between 2008 and 2012, the jury has heard.

The Grillo sisters, of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, deny the charge against them.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.

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