Have celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her husband Charles Saatchi really reconciled or are they just making nice for the cameras?
Or could it be their recent dinner together in the same London restaurant where Saatchi was photographed choking his wife last week was merely the calm before the storm?
All plotlines seem plausible in the tempestuous Lawson-Saatchi marriage, which is quickly turning into a soap opera rivaling the daily drama of Coronation Street.
As breathlessly reported by The Daily Mail, the English super-couple returned to the seafood restaurant Scotts in downtown London on Monday night and took a table only a few feet from where Lawson was choked and fled in tears six days before.
In the new series of photos, apparently taken in the 24 hours before Lawson walked out on Saatchi, she’s shown clasping her chin and staring into the distance, saying very little to her husband.
On this occasion, Saatchi is decidedly less threatening in his body language and is shown touching his wife’s face, this time gently. In nearly every photo, Lawson does not meet his gaze.
The next morning, Lawson left their posh Chelsea home with her two teenage children and has not been seen in public since.
Following the outcry over the photos of Saatchi, 70, attacking Lawson earlier this week, the multi-millionaire art collector, best known in the U.K. for masterminding the election campaigns of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, confessed to assaulting Lawson in public.
In his subsequent interview with The Evening Standard, Saatchi said he admitted to the assault—he called it a “playful tiff”—because he didn’t want the incident “hanging over all of us for months.”
But wait, there are more plot twists. On Tuesday night, Saatchi was shown entering another restaurant in London, without Lawson.
It’s unclear whether Saatchi dined alone, but 30 seconds after leaving the restaurant, he was followed in quick succession by Evening Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev and British comedian Harry Enfield, much loved in the U.K. for the TV series Men Behaving Badly and Harry Enfield and Chums. Imagine the creative possibilities.
All of jolly old England is up in arms over Saatchi’s assault on his much younger wife last weekend. Lawson, 53, looked tearful as her husband grabbed her neck four times. He also tweaked her nose, not in a playful way, and pushed her face back using both wrists.
On Tuesday, Saatchi said he voluntarily went to the police on the advice of his lawyer in order to head off a lengthy investigation. Despite the hugely negative publicity, he was not arrested and escaped with a caution, which is more commonly associated with lesser crimes like vandalism and pickpocketing.
Meanwhile, everybody in Britain with the exception of the Queen herself seems to be weighing in on the high-profile story.
The venerable law enforcement agency Scotland Yard has stated that it has a “positive arrest” policy in cases of domestic violence and says that officers must “arrest the suspect where there are reasonable grounds to suspect their involvement” in a crime.
Elsewhere, the Crown Prosecution Service said cautions are “rarely appropriate” in domestic violence cases. On British TV programs and in the tabloid press, legal experts said repeatedly that Saatchi’s actions were tantamount to common assault, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail.
And fittingly, there was reaction from U.K. women’s rights groups, including Refuge, which assists domestic abuse victims, which was not pleased with the slap on the wrist meted out to Saatchi.
“Cautions are sometimes used when a man admits to the assault and where there is no previous criminal record or history of violence,” said spokesperson Sandra Horley. “However, Refuge has concerns about cautioning perpetrators of domestic violence as it does not act as an effective deterrent.”
Meanwhile, all the U.K. waits and watches for Lawson to reappear. Saatchi and Lawson married in 2003 and live in London with her son and daughter from her marriage to journalist John Diamond, who died of cancer in 2001, and Saatchi’s daughter from a previous marriage. When last seen, Lawson was being helped into a London taxi by her 17-year-old son Bruno.
However the story unfolds and the marriage unravels, every detail will be covered by the ravenous British media. Stay tuned.