One day after pictures emerged of TV personality Nigella Lawson seemingly being choked by her husband, British police have cautioned former advertising executive Charles Saatchi over the incident. Police reportedly questioned Saatchi for five hours Monday. Lawson is a cookbook author who has also been a frequent guest on NPR's Morning Edition.
Earlier Monday, Saatchi, 70, had said that photos showing his hands around his wife's throat during what appears to be an argument on a restaurant's patio had been misinterpreted. The photographs were published in the newspaper Sunday People, an arm of The Daily Mirror.
The images created an uproar in Britain, where several newspapers descended on the story and republished the photographs in online galleries. On Facebook, Lawson's fans posted messages of support to her main profile page, as well as using the comment field of a story on griddles to give Lawson, 53, advice.
Lawson and Saatchi married in 2003. There has been no public statement about the incident from Lawson, but a family spokesman confirmed that "the chef and her children had moved out of their home," CNN reports. Saatchi said Monday that she left to get away from the media around their house.
"Saatchi said the pictures showed a 'playful tiff,'" The Guardian reports. "He told the London Evening Standard – for which he is a columnist – that the pictures gave a 'more drastic and violent impression' of the incident than had been the case."
"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 emphasize my point," The Standard quotes Saatchi saying today.
A photographer captured the scene from outside the seating area. It was the publication of those photos Sunday that led to Monday's probe by police.
The Mirror quotes a Metropolitan Police spokesman as saying, "This afternoon a 70-year-old man voluntarily attended a Central London police station and accepted a caution for assault."
The altercation also drew the attention of other patrons.
"Onlookers were said to be shocked, saying Ms Lawson appeared to be trying to pacify her husband, placing a hand on his left wrist and at one point kissing him on the cheek," The Standard reports. The newspaper relays this account from a witness: "It was utterly shocking to watch. I have no doubt she was scared. She was very tearful and constantly dabbing her eyes. Nigella was very, very upset."
"Under British law, a caution is a formal warning given to someone who admits a minor offense, the AP reports. "It carries no penalty, but it can be used as evidence of bad character if a person is later prosecuted for a different crime."