Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi take step toward divorce

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LONDON, UK — Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her multimillionaire art collector husband Charles Saatchi took a step toward divorce Wednesday in London — weeks after images of him grabbing her by the throat made headlines.

Neither party was at the High Court to hear the judge grant the “decree nisi,” on the grounds of Saatchi’s “unreasonable behavior.”

But in a sign of the media interest in the proceedings, more than a dozen journalists were in court for the brief hearing.

After six weeks, the couple can apply for a “decree absolute,” the legal document that will finalize the divorce, bringing to an end 10 years of marriage.

Court documents show that it was Lawson who filed for divorce. No details are given of the financial settlement agreed to between the two, each of whom is wealthy.

Tension between the pair hit the tabloids after Saatchi was photographed placing his hand around her neck and twisting her nose as the pair had lunch at a London restaurant.

Lawson and her children moved out of their family home as the media storm blew up.

Saatchi told the UK’s Mail on Sunday newspaper early this month that divorce proceedings were under way.

“I feel that I have clearly been a disappointment to Nigella during the last year or so, and I am disappointed that she was advised to make no public comment to explain that I abhor violence of any kind against women, and have never abused her physically in any way,” Saatchi wrote in the statement.

“This is heartbreaking for both of us as our love was very deep, but in the last year, we have become estranged and drifted apart.”

Lawson, known as the “queen of food porn,” has written numerous successful cookbooks and hosted several TV shows in Britain and the United States, including the ABC show “The Taste.”

Saatchi, an art dealer and former media mogul, denied that he attacked Lawson but told a London newspaper that he voluntarily went to police a day after the pictures were published to accept a police warning.

According to a UK government website, a caution is issued for minor crimes and is not a criminal conviction.

By Laura Smith-Spark and Per Nyberg

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