updated 12/13/2013 AT 12:40 PM ET
•originally published 12/13/2013 AT 2:00 PM ET
A former personal assistant for celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her media mogul ex-husband Charles Saatchi told a British court Friday she would never make unauthorized personal charges on the couple’s credit card.
Elisabetta “Lisa” Grillo and her sister, Francesca Grillo, have been charged with stealing more than $1.1 million from the high-profile former British couple in a massive personal spending spree. Their trial, which continued this week in Isleworth Crown Court, has exposed the couple’s relationship woes and included allegations of domestic abuse and drug use.
“I was part of the family, not because I was in the house or because I worked for Nigella or because they were rich. I was part of the family for 14 years,” Grillo testified when asked by attorneys if she’d felt “entitled” to use a company credit card for her own needs.
The sister said she was in shock when she learned she’d been accused of stealing, noting she would never take advantage of Lawson or Saatchi. Lawson previously had told the court that the relationship with her assistants was like a sisterhood.
“I would never do that,” Grillo testified. “Not to Nigella and not to Charles, especially Charles.”
Alleged Sales Sprees of Books
Grillo testified that she was asked to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of Saatchi’s books, taking taxis from East to West London multiple times per week in an effort to boost book sales. Others in his employ were also asked to do the same, she said.
“It was like four times a week,” she said of her purchases for Saatchi, noting when challenged by attorneys that she was not exaggerating. She also noted that the couple allowed her access to credit cards to take their children on holiday and to make personal purchases if needed.
“I was allowed to take cash, everybody knew I was taking cash,” she testified of the funds for holiday trips. “Nobody said I was not allowed, not Nigella, not the girls in the office. Nobody stopped me.”
Attorneys scrutinized Grillo’s wardrobe, noting she owned designer clothing, which included 20 dresses from Marc Jacobs and Sandro and shoes by Chanel in addition to less pricey items from stores like H&M and Primark.
Said the prosecutor to Grillo: “You accept that there has been a lot of personal expenditure, you just don’t accept it was unauthorized.” Grillo responded that she agreed with the statement.