Nigella photographer denies 'set-up' pictures claim as lawyers threaten PR man over blog post

The photographer who took the pictures showing Charles Saatchi assaulting his wife Nigella Lawson has denied claims made a PR that the scene was staged.

Lawyers acting for Lawson have threatened to sue PR executive Richard Hillgrove over claims that the pictures, which showed Saatchi grabbing Lawson by the throat outside a Mayfair restaurant, were fake.

But the photographer who took the set of snaps that featured in a Sunday People splash last month said: “It’s total and utter nonsense."

The man, who has wished to remain anonymous since the story first broke, added: “I know what I saw. To claim it’s a set-up just shows how much people cannot believe what they are seeing. But it’s complete rubbish.”

Hillgrove, who runs a PR firm of the same name and represents celebrities including James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne, has refused a demand from Lawson’s solicitor to take down the blog (which remains live)

He told Press Gazette that he stands by the claims he made in the blog and "totally refutes in the extreme the context and timeline" of the photographer's version of events.

Schillings law firm, acting for Lawson, has called for the blog, which was published last week, and tweets promoting it to be taken down and for an apology to be issued.

The firm said in a letter to Hillgrove that his blog post falsely gave the impression Lawson had “wilfully misled the public, acquaintances and others by knowingly orchestrating an ‘assault’ as a cynical PR exercise” and that it, again wrongly, suggested she was “feigning distress”. It said the claims are “entirely untrue and grossly defamatory”.

Lawyers twice wrote to Hillgrove last week, warning that “failure to act swiftly will only aggravate the damage that has already been caused”.

Following the incident, Saatchi accepted a police caution for assault. The pair announced they were to divorce shortly afterwards.

Last month’s story became the most popular ever published on the MirrorOnline website, surpassing 20 million page views just days after it broke.

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