Saatchi PA suffered panic attack

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There was drama in the courtroom when 999 was called after Elisabetta Grillo collapsed with a panic attack.

Paramedics rushed into the dock to treat the 41-year-old, who had momentarily stopped breathing. She was then taken to hospital with her younger sister, Francesca, by her side.

Her defence barrister, Anthony Metzer QC, looked shocked and concerned by his client's illness and told the judge that she had a history of panic attacks.

The jury was not in court at the time of the incident, which happened yesterday afternoon as they were making their deliberations, and remained unaware of what was unfolding. Judge Robin Johnson later told them that one of the sisters was not feeling well, but did not give any more information.

Before she fainted, former personal assistant Elisabetta had looked increasingly agitated as she waited for the jury to return with a verdict. She was comforted by her sister, who stroked her hair and hugged her after she started crying.

Her collapse came after the judge revealed the jury had sent a note asking for the day's deliberations to be extended.

Once she had been taken from the dock to receive treatment, Mr Metzer told the court, in the absence of the jury, that she had "suffered a severe panic attack that caused her to stop breathing".

Elisabetta had started breathing again but was unable to stand up and remained in a "very perilous" state, he added.

He suggested the jury be told precisely what had happened, claiming they may think she was trying to attract sympathy, but the judge disagreed, telling him: "What is the point in giving them chapter and verse?"

Mr Metzer clashed with the judge when he suggested the jury may think his client had simply "lost interest" in the case, with Judge Johnson saying: "That's complete nonsense, Mr Metzer. Complete and utter nonsense."

The judge then asked one of the paramedics to give him details on Elisabetta's condition and was told that she needed an ECG, but that for "privacy and to calm her down", he would take her to the ambulance to do so, before she was taken to hospital.

Judge Johnson said he had "concern about the welfare of the defendant" and agreed that a copy of her medical notes be given to those treating her for the panic attack.

Elisabetta discharged herself from hospital after two hours following an "acute panic attack", Mr Metzer said.

He said his client had an arrhythmic heart beat and high blood pressure, adding that she collapsed twice at home before leaving for court.

She was determined to attend however and apologised through her barrister for what happened - but the judge said there was no need for an apology.

As she arrived on Friday, she collapsed again after being surrounded by photographers and camera crews as she made her way into the building.

She was allowed to wait in another room while the jury deliberated for a second day, so she did not have to sit in the dock. Her younger sister remained with her.

Mr Metzer asked for someone medically-trained to be with Elisabetta when she heard the verdict.

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