'Caution of Assault' Given in Nigella Lawson Incident

Police say 70-year-old man voluntarily came to be questioned.

June 17, 2013, 9:25 PM

June 17, 2013— -- A 70-year-old man "voluntarily" walked into a London police station today and received a caution for assault related to photos published in a British tabloid of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson in a physical confrontation with a man who appeared to be her husband, the art and advertising magnate Charles Saatchi, police said.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police did not identify the man beyond giving his age. Saatchi is 70.

Under U.K. law, those guilty of minor offenses can be "cautioned" by the police as an alternative to prosecution, particularly first-time offenders.

A person must admit an offence and agree to be cautioned, otherwise they can be arrested and charged, according to the UK government web site. A caution is not a criminal conviction, but can be used as evidence of bad character if a person who receives one goes to court for another crime.

Earlier today, Saatchi said what went on in the photographs, which showed a man who appeared to be Saatchi holding Lawson by the throat, was the result of a "playful tiff" between the couple.

"There was no grip, it was a playful tiff," Saatchi told London's Evening Standard newspaper, where he also works as a columnist.

"The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place," he said. "Nigella's tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt."

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The photos were taken Sunday, June 9, as Lawson, 53, and Saatchi, 70, dined at Scott's, a restaurant in London's affluent Mayfair district, according to U.K. newspaper The Mirror's Sunday paper, the Sunday People, which published the photos.

In the photos, Lawson is seen at a table enshrouded in greenery outside a restaurant with a man who appeared to be Saatchi. In the pictures, his hand is at her throat as she appears to be stunned by his grasp. In another picture, the man is grabbing at Lawson's nose as she shuts her eyes.

Other diners at Scott's who witnessed the couple's interaction told the Mirror it looked like a violent encounter and that the couple left separately.

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"It was utterly shocking to watch," one onlooker told The Mirror. "I have no doubt she was scared. It was horrific, really. She was very tearful and was constantly dabbing her eyes."

Saatchi told the Evening Standard that he and Lawson, who has two children from a previous marriage, were discussing the children at the time.

"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," he said, according to the paper.

He also sought to clarify British media reports that Lawson was seen leaving the couple's home with one of her children and a suitcase.

"We had made up by the time we were home. The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke yesterday morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled," he told the paper.

Spokesmen for both Saatchi and Lawson declined to comment to ABC News.

Lawson has built an empire reportedly worth more than $23 million as the author of nine cookbooks, host of the TV program "Nigella Bites," and, most recently, as the star of ABC's cooking competition show, "The Taste."

ABC News' Alexis Shaw and Suzan Clarke contributed to this report.

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