London: Nigella Lawson has been prevented from boarding a flight to the United States over her court confession that she took drugs, it has emerged.
The celebrity chef was stopped at the boarding gate as she went to take her seat on a flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles on Sunday, the Daily Mail reported.
A ban on travel to the US would place her television career — she is a judge on the talent show The Taste – in serious peril.
The 54-year-old star made her confession under oath during a trial last year that she had snorted cocaine and smoked cannabis in front of her children.
Despite a public controversy, Scotland Yard decided not to act over her confession but the US authorities appear to have taken a tougher stance.
Lawson was travelling alone when she checked in at Heathrow’s Terminal Five on Sunday morning to catch a direct British Airways flight to LA.
According to eyewitnesses, she checked in and went through security checks before being informed that she would not be allowed to board the aircraft.
It is thought that the airline had been told by US authorities not to allow her to travel to California where she would have been refused entry.
Lawson is believed to have registered online for permission to travel to the US, where travellers must confirm that they have not been arrested or convicted of offences, including taking illegal drugs.
The US authorities can decide to bar visitors who have committed drugs offences without ever being charged. Would-be travellers can apply to have the ban lifted, but this can take months.
Before her Heathrow humiliation, Lawson had posted on Twitter in the early hours of Sunday that she was “packing for my holiday”. Her entry included a picture of a sun hat and some Colman’s mustard.
Neither Scotland Yard nor the Home Office had any involvement in the incident, according to spokesmen.
Lawson is expected to seek legal help to appeal to US authorities for permission to travel. She is a regular visitor for pleasure and work.
‘No fly list’
Foreigners on the inadmissible list can apply to the US government for a temporary waiver that allows them into the country but the process is bureaucratic and time-consuming.
Airlines are required to supply US security officials in advance with details about all passengers on flights to America so they can be screened against Washington’s ‘no fly list’ of suspects linked to terrorism. The carriers must also check that passengers have a valid visa or other authorisation to enter the US before they take off from the UK.
Number of people deemed inadmissible and refused entry every day, according to US government statistics
Number of people who enter the US every day
Lawson’s travel ban comes after a difficult 12 months for Miss Lawson, who has endured a bitter public divorce from her former husband Charles Saatchi.
The marriage broke down irrevocably after art collector Saatchi, 70, accepted a caution for assault when newspapers printed pictures of him with his hand around his wife’s throat outside Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair in June.
Lawson then had to give evidence at the trial of her former housekeepers, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who were accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from her and Saatchi.
While insisting she had never been an addict or habitual user of drugs, she confirmed she had taken cocaine.
She said she needed the drugs to cope with the death of her first husband, John Diamond, and the difficulties of living with her second, Saatchi.
Other British celebrities who have found it more difficult to gain entry to the US as a result of convictions or drug use include Amy Winehouse, Kate Moss, Russell Brand and Oasis stars Noel and Liam Gallagher.