London - The body of the American wife of one of Britain's richest men rotted for over two months before being found at their London home, a British court was told on Wednesday, in a case the judge said showed the “utterly destructive effects” of drug abuse.
Eva Rausing's husband Hans, heir to a fortune from the Swedish packaging firm Tetra Pak, was given a suspended 10-month jail sentence by the west London court for preventing the “lawful and decent” burial of his 48-year-old wife.
The couple lived at one of London's most exclusive addresses but sank into a narcotic-fuelled squalor that ended with Eva's death from heart failure and the effect of drugs, the court heard.
Her body was discovered on July 9 after police officers stopped her husband for driving erratically and went to their six-storey townhouse in Cadogan Place in an upscale area of the capital.
But a post-mortem established that she had died more than two months earlier, on May 7, and had cocaine and other drugs in her system, the court was told.
“If ever there was an illustration of the utterly destructive effects of drug misuse on individuals and their families, it is to be found in the facts of this case,” said the judge, Richard McGregor-Johnson.
“It is graphically illustrated by the contrast between the rooms visitors saw, and the utter squalor of the rooms you really lived in,” he said.
Eva Rausing's parents were at the white stuccoed house, attracted by the presence of police, when officers found their daughter's body in an advanced state of decomposition under layers of clothes and bin liners in a fly-infested room on the second floor.
It was a “dreadful shock of discovery in distressing circumstances” for them, the judge said.
“You and your wife had every material advantage imaginable, and for a time a happy family life. Your relapse into the misuse of drugs, together with that of your wife, destroyed all that,” the judge told Hans Rausing.
Rausing, 49, looking alert but pale and thin with dishevelled hair and a trimmed beard, stood quietly behind a glass screen at the back of the court as the judge spoke.
Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, he pleaded guilty to charges of preventing his wife's burial and of driving while unfit through drugs, for which he received a suspended 2-month jail sentence.
He answered “Yes, I am,” when the judge asked if he was prepared to abide by the conditions of the suspended sentences, which required him to submit to a two-year drug rehabilitation programme and remain at a private mental hospital in London.
The judge accepted a medical report that Rausing had been unable to cope with being present at his wife's death and had suffered some sort of breakdown.
There was no evidence that Rausing or anyone else was involved in Eva's death, the judge added.
Rausing told police in a statement after his arrest that he had not supplied his wife with drugs.
“I do not have a very coherent recollection of the events leading up to and since Eva's death, save to assure you that I have never wished her or done her any harm,” Rausing said.
“I did not feel able to confront the reality of her death,” he added, the Press Association reported.
The couple, who have four children, had a long history of problems with drugs. They first met at a US rehabilitation centre and gave generously to addiction treatment centres.
Eva Rausing's family have said they believe Eva turned to drugs in her late teens to overcome acute shyness.
Hans Rausing's parents said last month they hoped he would find the strength to “begin the long and hard journey of detoxification and rehabilitation”.
The Swedish Rausing family made a fortune by building up the Tetra Pak drinks packaging business, but Hans's father sold his share of it to his brother in the 1990s, and is now worth an estimated $10 billion, according to Forbes magazine. - Reuters