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R v Grillo

  (Redirected from R v Grillo and Grillo)

R v Elisabetta Grillo and Francesca Grillo[n 1] was the trial of two Italian sisters, Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo at Isleworth Crown Court.

R v Grillo and Grillo
CourtIsleworth Crown Court
Full case nameThe Crown v Elisabetta Grillo and Francesca Grillo
Case history
Prior action(s)Carnaco Partnership v Grillo (2012; Freezing injunction application)[1]
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingRobin Johnson

The defendants, former personal assistants to Nigella Lawson and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi, were accused of fraudulently using the credit cards of Saatchi's private company[2] between January 2008 and December 2012.[3]

In 2013, the sisters pleaded not guilty to the charges made against them[4] and were found not guilty.


Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson married in 2003.[5] Lawson was previously married to the journalist John Diamond until his death in 2001; Lawson and Diamond had two children together.[5] In June 2013, photographs emerged of Saatchi grasping Lawson around the throat at a dinner table outside a Mayfair restaurant. Saatchi accepted a conditional caution for assault from the police over the incident.[6] He announced his intention to divorce Lawson, stating that the couple had "become estranged and drifted apart".[7] Lawson made no public comment;[7] however, Lawson filed for divorce citing ongoing unreasonable behaviour.[8] On 31 July 2013, Saatchi and Lawson were granted a decree nisi effectively ending their 10-year marriage with court documents suggesting that the two had already arrived at a private financial settlement.[8]

Elisabetta Grillo was hired by Lawson as her personal assistant and nanny in 1999, during her marriage to Diamond.[9][10] Four years later, after Lawson married Saatchi, the couple hired her sister, Francesca, to serve as an additional personal assistant.[9] Elisabetta and Francesca were on salaries of £25,000 and £28,000 per annum, respectively.[9] The sisters were also housed for free by their employers.[9] As part of their duties, the sisters were expected to make certain purchases on behalf of their employers; they were therefore given Coutts credit cards in their own names on Saatchi's Conarco Partnership company account.[9] The Grillos were accused of misusing the credit cards to make personal purchases worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Lawson and Saatchi were originally willing to continue employing the Grillos if the women could pay back the money, but then later decided to involve the police when the matter was not resolved.[9] The two women were arrested in August 2012.[11] The Grillo Sisters hired criminal defence firm Janes Solicitors to represent them.[12]

Pre-trial hearingsEdit

In an unusual move, on 26 November 2013 in a pre-trial hearing the presiding judge, Robin Johnson, lifted an order that had prevented publication of claims made in pre-trial proceedings on 15 November.[13] In a "bad character" defence relating to Lawson,[2] enabling her to be cross-examined during the trial,[14] the Grillo sisters have alleged that Lawson had permitted their personal use of a private company credit card resulting in spending claimed, on the following day, to be £685,000 between them,[15] in return for non-disclosure to Saatchi of Lawson's purported use, for at least ten years, of cocaine and cannabis (Class A and B drugs respectively) and her unauthorised use of prescription drugs.[13] The defence counsel for Elisabetta, Anthony Metzer, QC, said that while the arrangement was not verbalised, it amounted to a "tacit understanding".[2]

An email sent by Saatchi to Lawson which was read out in court indicated that he believed the Grillos' assertions and subsequently he said that he was "completely astonished by the alleged scale of the drug use set out in the statements". Saatchi has stated that he was unaware of this reported situation until a late stage of the couple's marriage.[3] The prosecuting counsel Jane Carpenter described the Grillos' claims about Lawson's drug use as "totally scurrilous" and Lawson's spokesman declined to comment, "as the proceedings are still live".[13] Carpenter said that although the sisters had been arrested and interviewed on 2 August 2012,[16] and charged in March,[14] they had only made allegations against Lawson in October 2013.[2]

On 27 November, the defence counsel for Elisabetta, Anthony Metzer, QC, attempted to have the case thrown out as an abuse of process on the grounds that the two prosecution witnesses, Lawson and Saatchi, could not be "witnesses of truth". This application was rejected by the judge.[17]

The trialEdit

On 27 November 2013, the trial began.[18]

Saatchi testified that it had been Lawson's idea to give the Grillos credit cards. He stated that he had not authorized the Grillos' purchases himself, but was unable to say whether Lawson had approved them. He testified that he had never seen Lawson take illegal drugs, but added that the drug accusations against Lawson were "pretty compelling".[19] Lawson had been "very cross" when he told her that he had confronted the Grillos over their credit card use, Saatchi stated. Although Saatchi wanted to deal with the matter privately, Lawson suggested involving the police.[20] Saatchi also testified that he was "bereft" [sic] that his email about the drug allegations had been made public.[21] Lawson admitted to taking cocaine and cannabis but denied she was or is addicted, she stated, ""I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable. It’s a false friend. I found the answer was in changing the situation and trying to create a tolerable situation for me and my family. Since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man, I’m now totally cannabis-, cocaine- and drug-free."[22]

Saatchi's finance director testified that, after the couple's former assistants' alleged unauthorised spending had been uncovered, he suggested that they pay off the debt gradually over a long period. However, the Grillos were unhappy with this suggestion, as they felt they would be tied to the Saatchis for the rest of their lives; they accused Lawson and Saatchi of treating them "worse than Filipino slaves".[23]

Sharrine Scholtz, another former employee of Charles Saatchi testified personal and business spending with credit cards that the Grillos used were not distinguished. Scholtz allegedly processed credit statements and allocated spending on items like beauty treatments, clothes, hotels, shopping to business accounts. When Scholtz wanted to leave Saatchi's employment she alleges she was threatened over taxi fares she had been allowed to claim and was falsely accused of stealing from petty cash. She testified if she did not sign an agreement her employer wanted she, "thought perhaps [she] would be standing [accused in court] instead of Lisa and Francesca," [24]

On 12 December, the judge made critical remarks concerning comments made by David Cameron in The Spectator magazine in which Cameron said he was a "huge fan" of Lawson and a member of "Team Nigella", her support group on social media. The judge asked the jury to ignore what the Prime Minister had said.[25]


On 20 December 2013 the jury found both sisters not guilty.[26]


  1. ^ R for Regina, Latin for "queen": the Crown Prosecution Service acts in the name of the Crown.


  1. ^ "John Machelle QC". Retrieved 28 November 2013.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d Gordon Rayner "Nigella Lawson allegedly took drugs every day for a decade, court told",, 26 November 2013
  3. ^ a b Ian Johnston "Charles Saatchi believes his ex-wife Nigella Lawson is a ‘habitual criminal’, court hears", The Independent, 27 November 2013
  4. ^ "Nigella Lawson PAs spent '£685,000 living the high-life'", ITV News, 27 November 2013
  5. ^ a b "Charles Saatchi cautioned for Nigella Lawson assault". BBC. 19 June 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  6. ^ Walker, Peter (18 June 2013). "Charles Saatchi case: what is a police caution?". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson to divorce", BBC News, 7 July 2013.
  8. ^ a b Jones, Sam (31 July 2013). "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi granted divorce in 70-second hearing". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Rob Cooper (28 November 2013). "Sisters' claim that Nigella let them spend £685,000 on company credit cards because they knew about her cocaine habit is 'preposterous', jury told". Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Saatchi's accountant didn't want to tell couple of 'trivial matter'". 2013-11-28.
  11. ^ Gordon Rayner and Hayley Dixon (26 November 2013). "Nigella Lawson allegedly took drugs every day for a decade, court told". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  12. ^ "The Grillo Sisters". Janes Solicitors. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  13. ^ a b c Booth, Robert (26 November 2013). "Nigella Lawson took cocaine and other drugs every day for years, court told". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  14. ^ a b Kunal Dutta "Nigella Lawson took cocaine, cannabis and prescription drugs every day for 10 years, court hears", The Independent, 26 November 2013
  15. ^ Gordon Rayner "Nigella Lawson's assistants spent £685,000 on Charles Saatchi's credit cards, court hears", telegraph, 27 November 2013
  16. ^ Robert Booth "Nigella Lawson's personal assistants spent £685,000 in 'greedy free-for-all'", 27 November 2013
  17. ^ Gordon Rayner "Nigella Lawson is a 'habitual criminal’, court hears",, 27 November 2013
  18. ^ "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi marriage 'secrecy'", BBC News, 27 November 2013
  19. ^
  20. ^ "'No proof' that Nigella Lawson ever took drugs, Charles Saatchi admits". 2013-11-29.
  21. ^ "Saatchi 'bereft' that email accusing Nigella Lawson of drug use went public". The Guardian. 2013-11-29.
  22. ^ Nigella Lawson facing Scotland Yard drugs investigation
  23. ^ Nigella Lawson personal assistants treated 'worse than Filipino slaves', court told. Sydney Morning Herald. 29 November 2013.
  24. ^ 'Career suicide' to testify against Charles Saatchi, ex-aide tells court
  25. ^ Gordon Rayner "David Cameron criticised by judge for 'Team Nigella' intervention in trial", Daily Telegraph 12 December 2013
  26. ^ Sky news report

External linksEdit