LONDON: Scotland Yard has launched an investigation after Nigella Lawson was apparently assaulted by her husband during a violent row at a restaurant.

Photographs published in a Sunday newspaper allegedly show the television chef being grabbed around the throat by Charles Saatchi, the art dealer.

The couple was sitting outside Scott’s in Mayfair, central London, when he appeared to lean over and grasp her neck. Lawson, 53, looked terrified before leaving the restaurant alone in floods of tears.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said officers from the Community Safety Unit at Westminster were aware of the article, adding: “Enquires are in hand to establish the facts of the incident.”

He said Lawson had not lodged a complaint but declined to confirm whether any other member of the public had done so. A witness told the People: “It was utterly shocking to watch. "I have no doubt she was scared. It was horrific, really. She was very tearful and was constantly dabbing her eyes. Nigella was very, very upset. She had a real look of fear on her face.”

A Scotland Yard spokesman said no complaint was believed to have been made about the incident and that no investigation had been launched. The row occurred shortly after the couple had finished eating at the seafood restaurant, a popular haunt for celebrities.

They were at their favourite table, which is outside because Saatchi smokes. It is partly sheltered by olive trees but the alleged attack could be clearly seen and heard by other customers and those passing on the busy street, it was reported.

Onlookers claimed Lawson dabbed her eyes on a napkin as her husband tapped his cigarettes on the table. She is then said to have downed her glass of drink before beginning to speak in a trembling voice, placing a hand on his left wrist on the table.

At one point, Saatchi left, leaving his wife, who was wearing a spotty top, black jacket and trousers, sobbing at the table as he got into a waiting car.

A couple on an adjacent table reportedly turned around and gasped as they saw Lawson become distraught but nobody intervened, despite the apparent severity of the attack.

The witness added: “He looked guilty. It was clear he knew he'd done something wrong. He was menacing, there's no question. She had been abused and humiliated in public. –TG

“No man should do that to a woman. She raised her voice and got angry but at the same time was trying to calm him down, almost like you would try to calm down a child. The kiss was a strange thing. He was being intimidating, threatening. "And yet she kissed him. She appeared to be a woman who loves him but was clearly unable to stop him being abusive, frightening and disrespectful to her.”

Earlier in the day, last Sunday, Lawson had tweeted a picture of her scrambled egg and smoked salmon breakfast. She has since tweeted several times about food but there has been no hint of trouble in her marriage.

She has previously admitted that she and Saatchi have fiery rows and has described her husband as "an exploder". She said in 2007: "I'll go quiet when he explodes, and then I am a nest of horrible festeringness."

The couple, who have both been married before, are due to celebrate their 10th anniversary in September. –TG