The death of Eva Rausing illustrated the "utterly destructive effects of drug misuse", a judge said yesterday after her husband admitted keeping her body hidden inside their home for two months.
Hans Rausing's descent from one Britain's wealthiest men to the life of a drug-addicted recluse was laid bare as he narrowly avoided jail for failing to bury his 48-year-old wife.
Rausing, 49, an heir of the Tetra Pak dynasty who made billions when they sold their packaging business in the 1990s, used "deceit and deliberation" to avoid reporting her death, a court heard. He covered the corpse with clothing and plastic bags in squalid rooms of their multimillion pound townhouse in Belgravia and used powder to try to mask the smell.
He claimed that he did not have any recollection of events for more than 10 days after her death, Isleworth Crown Court was told.
Mrs Rausing's body was discovered only when police searched the house after he was arrested while driving under the influence of a cocktail of drugs. The court heard that her parents had been in the house at the time the body was found.
Judge Richard McGregor-Johnson told Rausing that the case highlighted the "utterly destructive" effects of drug misuse on individuals and their families. "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. It is graphically illustrated by the contrast between the rooms visitors saw and the utter squalor of the rooms you really lived in."
The judge said there was no evidence to suggest that Rausing was involved in his wife's death from heart failure coupled with drug use. She had long battled addiction and had just returned from a clinic in California when she died.
Rausing was given a 10-month suspended jail sentence and will have to undergo two years of treatment for the drug addiction that has punctuated his life. Rausing, with his grey beard neatly trimmed and wearing a dark, double-breasted blazer and red tie, sat behind the glass dock listening to the judge's comments through headphones. He sat impassively but confirmed that he would undergo treatment at the private Capio Nightingale hospital in London.
The case follows a decades-long struggle with addiction for the couple. In 2008, the Rausings faced drug charges after crack, heroin and cocaine were found at their home. It followed the arrest of Mrs Rausing after she allegedly tried to smuggle crack cocaine into the US embassy. The decision to drop the charges, in return for a conditional caution, sparked controversy and brought criticism from the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair.
The statement: 'I am devastated'
Extract of statement to police by Hans Rausing on 17 July
"I fully understand that my beloved wife of 19 years is dead and I am devastated, particularly for my children. I do not have a very coherent recollection of events leading up to and since Eva's death, save to assure you that I have never wished her or done her any harm. I did not supply her with drugs. I do not know what caused her death.
"I did not feel able to confront the reality of her death. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that, following her death, I did not act rationally. I tried to carry on as if her death had not happened. I believe that, in the period since Eva died, I have suffered a sort of breakdown.
"In those circumstances, I did not feel in a position to answer questions about the circumstances of her death, nor do I wish, for the sake of our children and our respective families, to make public the circumstances in which we were living. Accordingly I intend to exercise my right to remain silent."