Charles Saatchi accepted a police caution for assault yesterday after being photographed with his hand around his wife Nigella Lawson’s throat.
The millionaire art collector was interviewed by police about the incident after attending a police station voluntarily yesterday.
Despite the police action and his acceptance of a caution, Saatchi played down the attack, insisting that the pictures of the argument with his wife outside a fashionable London restaurant gave a misleading impression of what happened.
Ms Lawson, 53, was in tears after her husband had held her by the neck during a row at Scott’s in Mayfair, where they had been celebrating Mr Saatchi’s 70th birthday.
Mr Saatchi admitted the photographs showing his hands around Ms Lawson’s throat looked horrific but claimed he was trying to “emphasise my point” during an intense debate about their children. He said she was seen weeping out of a hatred of arguing rather than because she was hurt.
Ms Lawson, the television cook and author, has left the family home with her children. Her spokesman would not say when she was planning to return.
Scotland Yard said its officers had not received a formal complaint from Ms Lawson or any member of the public. However, a spokesman said a formal complaint was not required for the force to proceed with its own investigations.
A spokesman said: “Officers from the Community Safety Unit at Westminster were aware of the Sunday People article which was published on Sunday 16 June and carried out an investigation.
“This afternoon, Monday 17 June, a 70-year-old man voluntarily attended a central London police station and accepted a caution for assault.”
Mr Saatchi also pinched his wife’s nose during the argument at Scott’s on Sunday June 9. He issued a statement yesterday in which he played down the row.
“About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point,” he told London’s Evening Standard.
“There was no grip, it was a playful tiff. The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place. Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt. We had made up by the time we were home.
“The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke this morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.”
A spokesman for Ms Lawson declined to comment on Mr Saatchi’s statement.
Heather Harvey, of the charity Eaves For Women, said: “There is no way you can dismiss that as a ‘playful tiff’, and there is no way that you can think that is an acceptable way to ’emphasise your point’.”
Ms Lawson, the self-styled “domestic goddess”, who has sold more than three million cookbooks, was seen driving away from the marital home in Chelsea, west London, on Sunday in a taxi with Bruno, her teenage son from her first marriage, who carried a large suitcase.
A spokesman for Scott’s said its staff “did not see the alleged incident nor were they alerted to it at the time”.
The couple married in 2003 and are due to celebrate their 10th anniversary in September. Ms Lawson’s first husband, John Diamond, died of throat cancer in 2001. Ms Lawson has admitted she and her husband have fiery rows, describing him as “an exploder”.
Polly Neate, of the domestic violence charity Women’s Aid, said: “Abusive men will often attempt to excuse or minimise their behaviour.” She said they could be “extremely charming” so abused women do not speak out as they do not think that they will be believed.