Hand around neck ‘was playful tiff’


British art collector Charles Saatchi on Monday sought to downplay photographs apparently showing him grabbing his wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, around the throat at a London restaurant.

Saatchi, a wealthy 70-year-old former advertising executive, said in an interview that the couple had a “playful tiff” but had patched things up by the time they got home.

The publicity-shy collector, who owns London’s Saatchi Gallery, has been widely criticized after the photos appeared in the Sunday People tabloid. They appear to show Saatchi repeatedly grabbing his wife by the throat. Onlookers told the paper that the 53-year-old Lawson looked to be grimacing and left the restaurant in a flood of tears.

Saatchi confirmed the couple were in a restaurant about a week ago, “having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point.”

“The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place,” he said. “Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt. There was no grip, it was a playful tiff.”