Police have reportedly launched an investigation into photos which appear to show TV chef Nigella Lawson being physically restrained by her husband Charles Saatchi.

The snaps of the incident, which featured in the Sunday People, show the art collector with his hands around Nigella’s neck as they sit on the outside terrace of a restaurant.

Further reports suggest that Mr Saatchi repeated the action four times, and was also seen to tweak Nigella’s nose during the row

Nigella was reportedly seen in tears following the row, which reportedly occurred at Scott’s in Mayfair, in full view of passers-by.

She and Saatchi are said to be regular visitors to the restaurant, which is also a favourite with the likes of Jeremy Clarkson, Pippa Middleton and Simon Cowell.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said that Nigella had not made any complaint to the police, but added: “Inquiries are in hand to establish the facts of the incident.”

However in a further development the 53-year-old was later seen walking out of their Chelsea home with a suitcase, accompanied by her son Bruno – before they left in a black cab.

Nigella wed Mr Saatchi, who is 17 years older than her, in 2003, two years after her first husband, journalist John Diamond, died of throat cancer.

Her most recent TV series, the Italian-themed Nigellissima, was screened on BBC Two last autumn.