(LONDON) — The photographs of British television star and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson with what appears to be her husband, art and advertising magnate Charles Saatchi, clenching her throat in public were the result of a “playful tiff” between the couple, according to Saatchi.
“There was no grip, it was a playful tiff,” Saatchi told London’s Evening Standard newspaper, where he also works as a columnist, on Monday. “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.”
The photos were taken Sunday, June 9, as Lawson, 53, and Saatchi, 70, dined at Scott’s, a restaurant in London’s affluent Mayfair district, according to U.K. newspaper The Mirror’s Sunday paper, the Sunday People, which published the photos.
In the published photos, Lawson is seen at a table enshrouded in greenery outside a restaurant with a man who appears to be Saatchi. In the pictures, his hand is at her throat as she appears to be stunned by his grasp. In another picture, the man is grabbing at Lawson’s nose as she shuts her eyes.
Other diners at Scott’s who witnessed the couple’s interaction told the Mirror it looked like a violent encounter and that the couple left separately.
“It was utterly shocking to watch,” one onlooker told The Mirror. “I have no doubt she was scared. It was horrific, really. She was very tearful and was constantly dabbing her eyes.”
Saatchi told the Evening Standard that he and Lawson, who has two children from a previous marriage, were discussing the children at the time.
“We were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasize my point,” he said, according to the paper.
He also sought to clarify British media reports that Lawson was seen leaving the couple’s home with one of her children and a suitcase.
“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,” he told the paper.
Spokesmen for both Saatchi and Lawson declined to comment to ABC News.
Scotland Yard told ABC News it is looking “to establish the facts in order to assess whether an investigation is necessary.”
No arrests have been made, a spokesman said, and Lawson has not filed a police report.
Lawson has built an empire reportedly worth more than $23 million as the author of nine cookbooks, host of the TV program Nigella Bites, and, most recently, as the star of ABC’s cooking competition show, The Taste.
The celebrity chef gave a revealing interview to Britain’s Financial Times last year in which she discussed growing up with her “funny but depressed” mom and gave a glimpse into her life with Saatchi.
“She’d shout at all of us and say, ‘I’m going to hit you till you cry,’ and so I never would cry. I still don’t … She just didn’t like me,” Lawson said of her mom, Vanessa Salmon, an heiress to J. Lyons & Co., once a restaurant and food-manufacturing conglomerate.
As for her husband, Lawson expressed disbelief that he did not find the same joy in food as she did.
“I say to Charles every morning, so would you like this or that to eat tonight, and he says ‘Oh whatever’s easiest for you’, and I don’t understand why it wouldn’t matter whether this or that gives you pleasure to eat,” she told the Financial Times.
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