Death by tabloid


Dear Nigella,

You probably won’t remember me. We met briefly in Londinium when you were still married to John Diamond. I was an avid reader of your restaurant reviews in The Spectator.

I have seen your star rise and scintillate. You truly are a domestic goddess. Actually, make that just a goddess.

But goddesses are on pedestals and how delightful it is knock something from a pedestal. How the public enjoys to see a fall from grace. This is the theatre of schadenfreude. How they love it! Why, the scribblers are filled with such joy as rises like the aroma from the bœuf en daube!

I have been reading about your trials in the court and my einüfhlung is at full throttle.

You see, Nigella, I also mistakenly believed that one could expect justice from a court.

I read that the jury at London’s Isleworth Crown Court rejected prosecution claims that sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo had used credit cards loaned to them by you and Charles Saatchi for household expenses to run up unauthorized charges of 685,000 pounds (more than $1 million) on luxury clothes, designer handbags and high-end hotel rooms.

So the take away (as they say in the States) is that you did indeed authorize their high spending partly in exchange for their silence about your drug use.

Why are there juries anyway? Twelve digestive biscuits would be able to give more informed opinions.

I read that you were “disappointed but unsurprised” by the verdict. And that “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.”

“I have been put on trial here … and in the world’s press,” you said.

It was then that I decided to write to you. I too was put on trial – and continue to be by the haters – for something I didn’t do.

Well done Anthony Metzer, the Gorilla – oops typo – Grillo sisters’ lawyer. You were able to thoroughly divert the jury’s attention and get them to focus on Nigella’s alleged drug use and her generally delinquent predisposition.

Brand Nigella has not been damaged. As Jasmine Montgomery, chief executive of the branding consultancy Seven Brands said drug allegations would not fatally damage Nigella’s career or drive away fans drawn to her warm, sexy and slightly saucy TV persona.

In my case, I suffered death by tabloids.

When the rumour mill news would have it that I was having an affair with Mr White Earth , the first mistake I made was to take the advice of the leading libel lawyer in the land, one Peter Carter-Ruck. He told me that I had been severely libeled and that I would have no future in the UK if I didn’t put the record straight.

In those days I actually cared what people thought about me.rsz_janilook

I didn’t realise that a stylish person never insists on anything. I didn’t take cogniscance of the fact that if you are suing for libel you are putting yourself in a legal contest with someone.

The more forceful QC or the one with the best jokes will win. The truth has nothing to do with it.

Also, suing for libel, I now realize, also puts a kind of perverse credibility to that which you consider libelous.

Thus, by my denying that I had an affair with the pig in the safari suit, even if people did not necessarily believe it, they thought that where there is smoke there is fire.

Nigella, you had Anthony Metzer tormenting you.

I had George Alfred Carman, QC. The most feared criminal barrister in the land. (A man so terrible that his own son shopped him a few years later.)

Carman, as I am sure did Metzer, was able to bully the judge and confound the jury while presenting endless legal arguments.
The phrase ‘I am in your hands’ will remain with me forever. Actually it meant that the judge was in Carman’s Uriah Heepish hands.

If the jury does indeed consist of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the best barrister, Carman won hands down.

The witnesses he called were patiently schooled. I remember the dictum from teacher’s training.

Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.

Thus: “Tell us what you saw Miss Shaw.”

Miss Shaw:  “A large white bottom.”

Carman: “A large white bottom?” Theatrical pause. “A Large. White Bottom….” Protracted pause. Rolls reptilian eyes.

“So you are saying you saw a Large. White. Bottom? And where was this LARGE. WHITE. BOTTOM?

As a technique it is crude but effective.

Carman laboriously built up an edifice of ‘fact’ which he protected by retreating smartly into technicalities – legal no-go zones for justice.

When my barrister Charles Gray QC proposed to invite Miss Shaw and the jury to peer through a keyhole in order to prove that what she claimed to have seen through a keyhole was an impossibility (two pairs of jackboots on either side of LWB, as I recall), Carman bounced to his feet.

“My Lord,” he simpered. “We all know how perilous it is to invite the jury to become involved in experiments of this nature.”

Yeah right. Experiments that might prove that legalese has little to do with the truth.

Oh Nigella. I feel your pain.

In addition to the impressive catalogue of sociopathic crimes of which I was accused – a lot of drug taking too – Carman attacked my political stance, my world views and previous relationships. When he was gifted with diary stolen by someone I believed to be a friend and sent to the High Court he could scarcely contain his glee. Manna for a muck-raker.

He subjected me to humiliation of the deeply personal kind. The kind from which one will never quite recover. Finally, grasping at straws, he suggested that I had brought the action to make money.

“No money in the world would be worth being cross-examined by you,” I said quietly.

I read that you said that your “experience as a witness was deeply disturbing.”

The Grillos — 41-year-old Elisabetta or 35-year-old Francesca — were not in court when the verdict was read. Elisabetta Grillo collapsed in court Thursday and was taken to hospital with an anxiety attack.

In my case Linda Shaw, took refuge behind her Charles II hairstyle, sobbing rhetorically;

“How long is this nightmare going to go on?”

Funny isn’t it that Elisabetta Grillo’s lawyer, Anthony Metzer said his client was “relieved” and “crying her eyes out.”

Why would Linda Shaw cry?

Why would people lie about you Nigella?

I suppose if you have style, you are going to have enemies. People will resent you not for what you do, necessarily, but for who you are. Your very existence will be sufficient to arouse hostility. Any person distinctive enough to attract some people is also going to repel other people.

You are rich and beautiful.

This experience will be a footnote in your glorious career.

I have not been as fortunate.

And there are some who still lasciviously, pruriently attempt to define me by the events that took place in QB 14 all those years ago.


 *In 1991 a Channel 4 documentary made defamatory references to an alleged relationship between Jani Allan and the AWB leader, Eugène Terre’Blanche. The following year, Allan sued the British broadcaster for libel over the references made in Nick Broomfield’s The Leader, His Driver and the Driver’s Wife.