Nigella Lawson's husband has denied claims he attacked her.

Photographs emerged over the weekend of Charles Saatchi with his hands locked around his wife's neck at London restaurant Scott's on June 9, but the art dealer has now downplayed the shocking incident, claiming it was a ''playful tiff''.

The 70-year-old businessman told the Evening Standard newspaper: ''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.''

The curvy chef was pictured leaving their marital home yesterday (16.06.13) with a suitcase and her 17-year-old son Bruno, from her first marriage, in tow.

However, Charles is adamant the couple haven't split and says the 53-year-old TV star was merely trying to escape the media frenzy by lying low for a few days.

He added: ''We had made up by the time we were home. The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke yesterday morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.''

An eye-witness claims Nigella was in tears as Charles appeared to strangle her and was allegedly overheard verbally abusing her.

They said: ''It was utterly shocking to watch. I have no doubt she was scared. She was very tearful and constantly dabbing her eyes. Nigella was very, very upset.''

Nevertheless, the star is yet to make any allegations against her husband and reportedly returned to Scott's with him on Saturday (15.06.13), the day before the story broke, where they enjoyed a quiet meal.