Two Italian sisters who have been working for Nigella Lawson for years, have turned on their employer to try and save their own skins. They've accused her of having a serious drug habit which started many years ago, a shock accusation yet to be proved.
Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo must have decided if they were going down for theft, they would take Nigella and her career with them. Not much loyalty there, which is strange because Elisabetta began working for Nigella as a nanny fourteen years ago and Francesca started out as a 'housemate.'
They are accused of using Charles Saatchi's company credit card to fund their extravagant lifestyle, clocking up $1.2 million over 4 years and according to them, they had every right to do it.
The news comes as a complete shock because Nigela Lawson doesn't fit the profile of a drug addict - she's beautiful, wholesome, a devoted mother and a fabulous cook, envied and admired by women everywhere. But it gets worse - the accusations by the Italian sisters don't just involve Nigella, they say her daughter has a drug habit too.
Chales Saatchi told the court yesterday he had never seen his wife take drugs so he had no proof, but he did admit to sending her an email that said she was "off her head." He said he was very fond of the Grillo sisters but feared they would use their allegations that Nigella took drugs as a defence in their trial.
In that email he refers to his wife as "Higella" at one point. "I can only laugh at your sorry depravity" the email read. "Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you ...... were so off your head on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and yes, I believe every word the Grillos have said, who afterall, only stole money."
When the theft was discovered, the sisters got off lightly and it's hard to understand why they decided to look a gift horse in the mouth. They weren't sacked but allowed to continue on their current salaries and repay the money in monthly installments. They could also live rent-free in a flat owned by Nigella in central London. Yet the sisters weren't happy and said it tied them to the company for the rest of their lives.
Did the sisters feel confident their employers would never take them to court because the drug addiction accusation would be out in the open? Unfortunately for them, Charles Saatchi had other ideas. He would have known it would ruin Nigela's reputation and her career.
Anthony Metzer QC, defending Elisabetta, said it was common practice for PA's to spend money on luxury items for themselves, paid for by their employer.
Nigella's other PAs - Anzelle Wasserman, Zoe Wales and Alice Binks all used their employers' credit cards to buy personal items and they were allowed to run up bills at Annabell's, a private club popular with the royal family, and spend weekends at Babington House, a boutique hotel in Somerset. These employees weren't asked to repay any money and there's a good reason why.
Francesca racked up an average of 48,000 pounds a month, Elisabetta 28,000 a month and the other PA's a maximum of 8,000 pounds per month.
Elisabetta (left) and Francesca Grillo
Nigella is expected to give evidence at a later date but doesn't seem too phased by the fallout. Yesterday she tweeted a recipe for Butternut Squash with pecans and blue cheese.
The trial continues.