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TMCNet:  PLOT BOILER ; EXCLUSIVE The lies designed to destroy Nigella's global career...Smears by PR who had worked with her ex husband Saatchi [People, The (England)]

[December 22, 2013]

PLOT BOILER ; EXCLUSIVE The lies designed to destroy Nigella's global career...Smears by PR who had worked with her ex husband Saatchi [People, The (England)]

(People, The (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) NIGELLA Lawson has been the victim of a vicious smear campaign masterminded by a man who used to work for Charles Saatchi, the Sunday People can reveal.

Publicist Richard Hillgrove started his onslaught against the TV chef within days of the Sunday People publishing the now-infamous pictures of Saatchi grabbing his wife's neck outside Scott's restaurant.

Hillgrove accused Nigella, 53, of setting up the shocking pictures in collusion with a photographer and this paper in a bid to destroy her husband's reputation.

Later Hillgrove acted as a publicist for the fraud-trial Grillo sisters, overseeing "statements" in which they accused Nigella of taking cocaine regularly for 10 years This is something Nigella vehemently denies and neither sister was able to give evidence that they saw her taking drugs.


In recent weeks he appears to have been working behind the scenes with his former advertising tycoon boss Saatchi, 70, to tip off newspapers about the drug allegations.

Blow Hillgrove has also been responsible for spreading a story that Nigella began her affair with Saatchi six months before her first husband John Diamond died of cancer in 2001 - a claim the celebrity chef has denied.

The extent of the campaign orchestrated by Hillgrove - a self- styled "man with a hat" who has represented Dragons' Den stars Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan - can be revealed for the first time following the end of the Grillo sisters' trial.

On Friday the former personal assistants Elizabetta, 41, and Francesca, 35, were cleared of accusations that they had defrauded Nigella and Saatchi of Pounds 685,000.

Just two weeks before Nigella gave evidence at Isleworth Crown Court, West London, Hillgrove - in an apparent breach of Britain's contempt laws - repeated the drug allegations and accused the chef of running scared.

He wrote online: "Nigella Lawson - to cover up for years of cocaine abuse and turning the Saatchi household into a drug den with dealers regularly coming to the house and aides asked to roll spliffs for her and her two kids on a daily basis - isn't looking forward to the upcoming trial. He story affair was as the xtracttrial "Nigella Lawson has tried every trick in the book to have herself extracted from the upcoming trial.

"Nigella Lawson has become a fame-hungry machine, willing to sacrifice everything and anything in her quest for power and attention. Anything and anyone." The TV star faced a humiliating two days in the dock when she admitted taking cocaine during two periods of her life.

The Grillos claimed she was constantly taking drugs and that they were allowed to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of the couple's fortune.

Their defence depended on attacking the credibility of her evidence and the not guilty verdicts have been seen as a blow to her reputation.

Afterward the case on Friday, Nigella - who is trying to develop a career in the US with cooking talent show The Taste - made an extraordinary public statement claiming she had been the victim of a smear campaign.

She was clearly pointing her finger at New Zealander Hillgrove and her ex-husband.

The Sunday People has discovered that Hillgrove worked as a consultant to global advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi during the early 1990s just as his career in London was taking off.

According to Hillgrove's online Wikipedia page he played a crucial role in bringing a large Levi Strauss jeans contract to the agency then run by Charles Saatchi with his younger brother Maurice.

The self-congratulatory entry states: "At the age of twenty he worked as a consultant, advising blue-chip clients such as Saatchi and Saatchi, the award-winning global advertising agency network with 140 offices in 76 countries and over 6,500 staff about how to target 'Generation X' and assisted them to win one of the biggest global conglomerates, Levi Strauss." But Hillgrove began putting out false smears against Nigella a month after our world picture exclusive in June.

In his first blog in July he incorrectly stated that the throttling scene had been set up by Nigella.

Ten days later he described the story as "total and utter fantasy and lies". Among the litany of untruths peddled by Hillgrove were that...

Our reporter Sian James was in Scott's that night. Wrong.

Sian had called up a photographer to take the pictures. Wrong. Nigella was "feigning distress" for the camera. Wrong.

Saatchi was just being "tactile" when he gripped Nigella's throat.

Wrong.

Hillgrove's campaign then took a bizarre twist when he was hired by the Grillo sisters in the run-up to their case.

On September 24 they prepared separate witness statements, making lurid allegations about Nigella's drug use. Hillgrove posted the statements on his blog and on Nigella's Facebook page.

Although the statements were removed days later, they had already been passed on to Saatchi by a newspaper. At the time the multi- millionaire art collector was furious at being portrayed as the villain.

What he considered a "playful tiff" had sparked their bitter divorce and a giant slur on his character. He emailed Nigella on October 10 calling her "Higella" and suggesting she had poisoned her own daughter Cosima with drugs.

Nigella - shocked by the sisters' claims and Saatchi's email - sought to pull out of being a witness at the Grillos' court hearing where she would be crossexamined about the drug allegations.

It was at this point Saatchi apparently joined forces with Hillgrove, despite the fact the PR was also working for the Grillos - who Saatchi was suing in a civil case and also giving evidence against in the criminal action.

The art collector got his lawyers to fire off a letter to Nigella threatening to sue her for Pounds 370,000 plus interest and legal costs as he saw her refusal to appear in court as "a failure of duty of care".

Gruelling Newspapers were tipped off by Hillgrove about the detail of the legal correspondence in which Saatchi stated he "had no reason to disbelieve" the drug abuse claims.

It was said Saatchi wanted the truth to come out about the row in Scott's, implying that the restaurant argument was over cocaine - a claim both Nigella and Saatchi denied in court.

Nigella made a U-turn and did appear in court where she admitted using cocaine when her late husband John Diamond was terminally ill with throat cancer and again in 2010.

But she was adamant she is not an addict.

Yesterday the Daily Telegraph claimed even after Nigella's gruelling examination in the witness box that a "source" close to Saatchi offered papers an "exclusive" about Nigella beginning an affair with Saatchi before her husband died.

The "source" promised that an email from Saatchi would back up the claim.

That would have been a familiar story to Hillgrove. He made the allegation back in August on his blog.

Hillgrove has refused to take calls from the Sunday People since the trial ended on Friday afternoon and Saatchi has been unavailable for comment.

After the verdict, Nigella released a statement saying she had found being a witness "deeply disturbing".

The Domestic Goddess, battling to save her career after the smears, added: "I did my civic duty, only to be maliciously vilified.

"I can only hope that my experience will highlight the need for a reform that will give witnesses some rights to rebut false claims made against them." katie.hind@people.co.uk He spread story about her affair while hubby was dying Wrong. Wron His pack of untruths about her faking distress for cameras ure (c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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