Charles Saatchi Admits to Assaulting Nigella Lawson in Restaurant

06/18/2013 at 08:10 AM EDT

Nigella Lawson's Husband Admits He Assaulted Her
Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi
Aaron Davidson/Getty; Startraks
The husband of celebrity chef and author Nigella Lawson has accepted a police citation and admitted that he assaulted his wife after a public argument at a London restaurant on June 9.

Charles Saatchi, 70, was interviewed by British police for five hours about the fight, where he was seen with his hands around Lawson's neck in a row he first downplayed as merely a couple's tiff. Photographers outside the restaurant captured the images of the confrontation, which were published this weekend to great public outcry.

Saatchi received a formal police citation on Monday, called a caution, which means he admitted his actions. Had he not come clean, formal charges could have been brought, the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday. The caution ends the matter with police.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard, without naming names, issued a statement confirming the caution. "On Monday 17 June, a 70-year-old man voluntarily attended a central London police station and accepted a caution for assault."

Saatchi, a wealthy art collector and global ad agency co-founder who married Lawson, now 53, in 2003, had first sought to downplay the exchange as a "playful tiff" and defended that while the photos showed his hands on Lawson's neck, he did not have her in a tight grip. He said the photos made the exchange look worse than it actually was.

But he admitted to police that he had choked his wife in a fight at a Mayfair area restaurant. Lawson was seen crying on the street outside the restaurant after the incident.

"Although Nigella made no complaint, I volunteered to go to Charing Cross station and take a police caution after a discussion with my lawyer because I thought it was better than the alternative of this hanging over us all for months," Saatchi told London's Evening Standard.

Lawson has not commented publicly on the incident. Her rep confirmed Monday that she had taken her children and left her home, although it was not known if the move would be permanent.

The couple, married for 10 years, have three children, one from Saatchi's previous marriage and two from Lawson's previous marriage to her late husband John Diamond, a journalist.

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