'Eva looked so restful. Like a small child, I couldn't face telling anyone she'd died'

After weeks of speculation, the definitive story of Eva Rausing's tragic descent was revealed yesterday

It started with two forbidden glasses of champagne to usher in the new millennium. It led to drug-taking punctuated by regular visits to rehabilitation centres as their privileged lives began to unravel. It ended in the squalid private annexe of their six-storey Chelsea house where Eva Rausing's decomposing body lay undiscovered while her husband sought oblivion in the drugs that destroyed their lives.

After 11 years of abstinence and a comparatively happy family life with four children, the disastrous decision by the couple in December 1999 to fall off the wagon started a chain of destructive events that resulted in Hans Rausing's appearance yesterday in the dock and the chaos of their lives fully exposed.

The couple had met at a drying-out clinic while both were in their 20s and had struggled for years with addiction. They had appeared to have achieved some form of stability until their fateful decision on the millennium New Year's Eve to have a drink. Their decision to move away from a programme of total abstinence meant that they lost the support of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. They proved unable to cope.

They were able to get by for a few years but events in 2007 led to a worsening in their addiction and turned Rausing into a virtual recluse whose only human contact was with his wife. "It was like the end of the world," said a member of their staff, the court heard.

It was a lifestyle they sought to hide. Visitors to their town house in Cadogan Place only ever saw the clean and smartly decorated rooms their huge inherited wealth could provide. What was never on view was the utter squalor of the rooms that provided the chaotic setting for the couple to live out their painful addiction. They were a far cry from their public image as philanthropists – with £2m annual donations from Rausing's foundation – attending glittering parties and fund-raising balls for the drug charities they supported. The rooms provided a better picture of the dramatic decline for one troubled heir of the Tetra Pak fortune.

Rausing's curse, according to his defence team, was his economic circumstances and upbringing that had given him unusually strong "social anxiety, feelings of inferiority" and a tendency to "medicate by drug taking".

He had been totally dependent on his wife, the daughter of a wealthy Pepsi executive, who was virtually his only human contact.

Just before her death, she had returned from a clinic in California to Britain because of concerns about his health and had wanted to take him back to America. He had not been able to go first time round because he could not find his passport.

She confided her worries about her husband's chaotic lifestyle during a meeting with an adviser, but within days she herself had died from heart failure coupled with the effect of drugs. A post-mortem examination revealed traces of cocaine and amphetamines and the pacemaker fitted inside her body suggested the date of her death was on 7 May. She will now be buried in the US.

Rausing, 49, told police that he suffered a breakdown and was unable to confront the reality of her death after 19 years of marriage. He used deodorising powder to try to mask the smell after leaving his wife's body under clothing and black plastic sacks.

"I know it sounds selfish but I just didn't want her to leave," he told a doctor, Mike McPhillips, who compiled a report on his state of mind.

Eva's death was only discovered after police arrested him when he was caught driving erratically under the influence of a cocktail of drugs including cocaine and morphine, Isleworth Crown Court in west London heard yesterday.

Police found drugs paraphernalia inside the car and a substantial amount of mail for Mrs Rausing, who had returned to London on 29 April.

Unsatisfied by his answers, police decided to search the house. By chance, Mrs Rausing's parents, Tom and Nancy Kemeny, arrived at around the same time.

Going up in a lift inside the house, police noticed the unmistakeable smell of decomposition. They discovered Mrs Rausing's body in the annexe used only by the couple that was behind a locked door and sealed with industrial tape to try to prevent any outsiders from coming in.

Rausing later told Dr McPhillips that he felt numb and has no recollection of what happened for 10 to 12 days after his wife's death. He said she was looking "quite restful" and he, "like a small child, could not face up to telling anyone else that she had died," said his defence counsel Alexander Cameron, QC.

He accepted he had acted in a "cowardly fashion" although his wife's family had been "forgiving and supportive". Both sets of parents had long been forced to address the couple's struggles. Mr Kemeny described Rausing as a "wonderful father, a wonderful man, a good person – but also very ill".

After an earlier court hearing, Rausing's parents issued a statement saying Eva's death is "a reminder of the distorted reality of drug addiction".

They added: "They desperately hope that their dear son, Hans, may find the strength to begin the long and hard journey of detoxification and rehabilitation."

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit