– Art tycoon Charles Saatchi has dismissed shocking photos of him with his hands around his tearful wife’s throat as a “playful tiff”.
The multi-millionaire was caught on camera clutching the neck of TV food queen Nigella Lawson as they sat outside their favourite Mayfair restaurant.
But 70-year-old Saatchi, founder of global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, has insisted they were having an “intense argument” and that Lawson was crying only because she hates it when they row.
An ‘Evening Standard’ columnist, Saatchi told the newspaper: “About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point.
“There was no grip, it was a playful tiff. 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.
“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.”
Despite his assertions, Saatchi is to be investigated over the incident, which was witnessed by other diners at Scotts restaurant in mayfairn and reportedly led Lawson to flee in tears.
It was captured by a dramatic series of photographs in the Sunday tabloids.
They show her initially looking concerned; then his left hand goes to her throat and her eyes widen. He puts both hands to her throat four times during a heated exchange. It has been reported Lawson, 53, has since moved out of their home.
It is understood Lawson, a hugely successful cook known worldwide for her books and TV show, has made no formal complaint, with police instead receiving information from the public including the images from ‘Sunday People’ newspaper.
While police had not launched a formal probe they confirmed officers from the Yard’s Community Safety Unit at Westminster were investigating the issue.
She is likely to be interviewed first, then him.
“It was utterly shocking to watch,” one witness said of the “menacing” affair. “I have no doubt she was scared. It was horrific, really. She was very tearful and constantly dabbing at her eyes.
Despite the apparent row at the meal, reportedly to celebrate Saatchi’s 70th birthday, the couple reportedly continued to talk before they finished their drinks.
Lawson put her hand on his, trying to console him, then kissed him on the cheek before he left alone in a waiting car.
She dabbed her eyes with a napkin and left a short time later.
The pair returned separately to their $20 million converted warehouse home in Chelsea, which they share with children from previous marriages, including his daughter Phoebe, 19, and her children, Costima, also 19, and 17-year-old Bruno.
But she was seen yesterday leaving the home with suitcases.
Both have declined to comment about the incident and Lawson yesterday continued tweeting recipes as normal.
The couple were known to have fiery rows, with Lawson herself saying in 2007 her husband was “an exploder” and she quite feisty.
It is Saatchi’s third marriage and Lawson’s second. Their 10th anniversary is in September.
In the 1980s Iraqi-born Saatchi created the world’s largest advertising agency that carried his name and that of his brother, Maurice, and is said to be worth $165 million.
Lawson, daughter of Thatcher government treasurer Nigel Lawson, has built a multi-million-dollar fortune through her food writing and broadcasting – Charles Miranda


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