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The Sensational Trial Which Revealed Nigella Lawson's Cocaine Past Has Ended Badly For TV Chef

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Sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, the former personal assistants to Charles Saatchi and his ex-wife Nigella Lawson, have been cleared of fraud.

The jury at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, found the Italian pair not guilty of a single count of fraud each.

It was alleged that between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2012, the women committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs, using a company credit card for personal gain - and were accused of spending more than £685,000 on themselves.

Nigella Lawson said she was "disappointed but unsurprised" by the decision.

"Over the three week trial the jury was faced with a ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use which made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible," she said.

Scotland Yard has said it will not investigate claims that emerged during the trial that Nigella took cocaine, but will review the decision if new evidence comes to light.

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Elisabetta, 41, sometimes referred to in court as Lisa, and Francesca, 35, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, had been accused of living the "high life".

The court heard they used credit cards loaned to them by the TV cook and her ex-husband Mr Saatchi to buy designer goods from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

Francesca was accused of spending the largest amount on herself - a sum of £580,000.

But the sisters insisted all of their purchases had been authorised.

And in a sensational twist their defence lawyers introduced allegations of drug-taking by Ms Lawson and marital strife involving the celebrity couple.

It was claimed by the defence that there was a culture of secrecy within the high-profile couple's marriage and that the Grillo sisters were aware of Ms Lawson's alleged drug use, while Mr Saatchi was not.

The defence claimed that Elisabetta's knowledge of Ms Lawson's supposed drug use materially affected the TV cook's attitude towards her spending.

After the three-week trial, the jury of seven men and five women rejected the prosecution's claims that the purchases on the cards had been unauthorised.

The jurors had been deliberating for nearly nine hours, having been sent out at 10.20am yesterday.

Neither defendant was in court to hear the verdicts but there was a cry of "yes" from someone in the public gallery.

Elisabetta, who was rushed to hospital last night when she stopped breathing following a panic attack, was with her sister in another room in the court, after Elisabetta collapsed again this morning as she arrived at the building.

After hearing the verdicts, Francesca could be seen smiling and talking excitedly in Italian on her phone as she was being hugged by a supporter. Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elisabetta, said his client was "relieved" and "crying her eyes out".

Mr Metzer and Karina Arden, Francesca's barrister, turned to each other a few moments after the verdicts were delivered and smiled.

When the judge left the court, they hugged members of the defence team, one of whom was crying what appeared to be tears of joy and relief.

Mr Metzer said he was "incredibly thrilled and delighted for both of them", and said he wanted to thank the jury for their attention during the trial.

He added: "I'm a bit lost for words." He said it had been a "stressful case" and said the "medical issues" in relation to Elisabetta made it even harder.

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