The husband of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson called the photos of his grabbing her throat published in a British tabloid this month a "playful tiff," but the photographer behind the lens said he believes the incident was much more serious.
"What I witnessed was 27 minutes of madness," the photographer, identified only as Jean-Paul, wrote in the U.K. newspaper The Mirror's Sunday paper, the Sunday People. "That's how long the abuse lasted from start to finish, so it was most definitely not a fleeting moment."
Jean-Paul's photos of Lawson, 53, appearing to have her throat clenched and her nose grabbed by her husband, art and advertising magnate Charles Saatchi, 70, made headlines when they were published in the Sunday People one week after the incident took place as the couple dined at Scott's, a restaurant in London's affluent Mayfair district.
"It was shocking," Jean-Paul wrote. "The first time her head jolted backwards really got me. I didn't take pictures initially. Then, suddenly, I saw Nigella's head jolt backwards. I thought this is odd. I put the camera up to my face to look through the lens and I saw his left hand on her throat so I started taking pictures.
"I said to myself, "This can't be happening, it can't be real.' 'I thought he was just demonstrating something," he wrote. "Then he put his hand down. But after 30 seconds he put it up again, and I knew it was painful. It must have really hurt."
Saatchi initially said the photos gave a "far more drastic and violent impression of what took place" but was photographed June 17 outside a London police station where he received a caution for assault related to the photos. Under U.K. law, those guilty of minor offenses can be "cautioned" by the police as an alternative to prosecution, particularly first-time offenders.
In a new interview Monday with London's Evening Standard newspaper, where he also works as a columnist, Saatchi gave a second explanation for the tiff.
"Even domestic goddesses sometimes have a bit of snot in their nose," he said. "I was trying to fish it out."
Lawson, the mother of two children from a previous marriage, has not spoken publicly about the incident and "That isn't due to change," her representatives told ABC News.
She was spotted leaving the couple's home with one of her children and a suitcase after the photos were published and was last photographed Friday, without her wedding ring.
Lawson, who has built an empire reportedly worth more than $23 million as the author of nine cookbooks and host of the TV program "Nigella Bites," is also a judge on ABC's cooking competition show "The Taste," which is set to begin production for a second season in Los Angeles.
"Nigella is doing the smartest thing, which is going on with her career," said Howard Bragman, a longtime publicist and ABC News consultant. "[She's] handling a very personal situation in a very private way."
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- Charles Saatchi