Following the publication and uproar around photos of Charles Saatchi apparently grabbing wife and TV chef Nigella Lawson by the neck while sitting outside at a London restaurant, Saatchi released a statement saying it was a 'playful tiff'.

Admitting that the two had a row, he claims that they pair made up by the time they were home, with his comments being the first out of either party since the photographs appeared in tabloids and online over the weekend, saying that the photos gave a 'far more drastic and violent impression' of what was actually happening. The couple had been celebrating Saatchi's 70th birthday in Scott's in Mayfair, London last week when the the photographs were taken.

Saatchi's statement to the Evening Standard said that '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.'

'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.'

Witnesses to the alleged incident between Lawson and Saatchi say that there was 'no doubt she was scared' and 'It was utterly shocking to watch. She was very tearful and constantly dabbing her eyes. Nigella was very, very upset.'

Since the photos were published over the weekend, Lawson and her son from her previous marriage left the family home in Chelsea. Police meanwhile have said that they are aware of the photos but have not yet received a formal complaint from either Lawson or any member of the public who witnessed the events.