THE former stepmother of celebrity chef James Martin has won damages after a legal battle that resulted in his autobiography being pulped.

Sarah Beth Briggs, of York, received an apology from the star presenter of Saturday Kitchen, his publishers Harper Collins and the Mail on Sunday, which serialised his book, Driven.

The celebrity chef is preparing his bid for a Christmas bestseller with the release of his life story.

But what punters attending his book-signing in York on December 11, will not realise is that the copy they will be buying is a later edition, after the first had to be withdrawn prior to going on sale.

In the original, James claimed that Sarah, who married the chef’s father, Ian, was ‘the ugliest woman he had ever met’ and said she had burned ‘every scrap’ of his childhood, including baby pictures, school reports, toys and clothes.

But Sarah, 36 – an internationally-renowned concert pianist – was horrified by the claims and fought a legal action against them and won, forcing the book to be pulped.

A statement published by the Mail on Sunday said: “The celebrity chef James Martin has apologised to his father’s ex-wife over allegations in his autobiography Driven, serialised in The Mail on Sunday on October 12.

“Mr Martin accepts it was untrue to say his father’s then-girlfriend cruelly destroyed childhood mementoes of him and his sister.

“We are happy to report this. HarperCollins publishers have withdrawn that edition of the book from sale and paid damages on behalf of themselves, Mr Martin and Associated Newspapers.”

Sarah became James’ stepmother after marrying Ian Martin, a former events manager at Castle Howard.

She says she thought that she had a reasonable relationship with his son after James attended their Castle Howard wedding, considering the difficulty of herself and James being contemporaries.

But Sarah said: “My jaw dropped as I read the extraordinary accusations.

“Apart from James describing me as ‘the ugliest woman I’d ever met’, something I can’t pass comment on in comparison to the circles of the beautiful people with whom he now mixes, he had conjured up a painful scene of my burning ‘every scrap’ of his childhood – ‘baby pictures, school reports, toys and clothes’.

“It was graphically depicted, but wholly untrue. I had never destroyed anything belonging to James.

“Reading on, I became even more perplexed. I was doomed to be the ‘wicked stepmother’ – effectively labelled from the outset, and seemingly never allowed to become anything else.”

The popular star of BBC cookery shows is due to land in York at Waterstones on December 11 to sign copies of his new book.

But Sarah said: “I am still left wondering why it ever happened. I feel hurt and disappointed.

“If such unpleasant and untrue statements are a way of boosting book sales, it makes me rather sad. James has far more interesting things to say.

“I hope the revised edition of the book will allow him to do so without causing as much upset and damage to other people as he has done to me.”

A spokeswoman for Harper Collins said that the firm had withdrawn the first edition of the book because there were “issues” which had now been resolved, and the book had been published earlier this month, but declined to comment further.

James Martin was unavailable for comment. His PA said he was at the NEC and could not be contacted and his agents said there was no one available for comment.

Strictly, childhood and work

DRIVEN – Cooking in the Fast Lane is billed as James talking frankly about life, love and learning to foxtrot for live TV on Strictly Come Dancing.

The blurb for his book reads: “He reveals how a hunger for success and a thirst for speed have turned him from humble Yorkshire lad into a British cooking sensation.

“Highly ambitious and relentlessly motivated, James Martin has worked extraordinarily hard to become one of Britain’s most successful TV chefs.

“It hasn’t all been a smooth ride and here James tells his remarkable story, looking back to his working class childhood in Yorkshire, relating the highs and lows of a career in the kitchen and revealing some of the astonishing events that have come with fame and fortune.”