British police are investigating reports that British food writer, journalist and broadcaster Nigella Lawson's husband Charles Saatchi allegedly choked her during dinner at Scott's, an upscale London seafood restaurant.
Photographs of the incident from eight days ago became known to the public and police after they were published Sunday by the tabloid paper The Mirror.
They allegedly show Saatchi, 70, with his hands around his 53-year-old wife's neck on a patio outside Scott's.
The paper reports:
At first he used only his left hand, then both. At one stage he tweaked her nose then pushed both hands in her face. Twice Nigella jerked her head backwards as if in fear. Several times she nodded intently while the conversation became more and more heated. By the end of the meal she was clearly distraught and in tears.
Saatchi responded to the incident Monday with a statement in the Evening Standard newspaper.
About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point. There was no grip, it was a playful tiff. The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place. Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt. We had made up by the time we were home. The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke yesterday morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.
One witness at the restaurant tells The Mirror, “It was utterly shocking to watch. I have no doubt she was scared. She was very tearful and constantly dabbing her eyes. Nigella was very, very upset.”
Also see: Illinois man jailed for three years after refusing to pay $70 restaurant bill
Saatchi and Lawson married in 2003 and live in London with Lawson's son and daughter from her marriage to journalist John Diamond, who died of cancer in 2001, and Saatchi's daughter from a previous marriage, reports the Associated Press.
British police say they have not received a criminal complaint, though a complaint from the victim is not necessary to lay assault charges if there is enough evidence from witnesses.
Lawson is a celebrity cookbook author and journalist known for her television cooking shows featured on the Food Network.