Jacky Sutton: 'Suicide' of ex-BBC journalist called into question

Sutton's body was found at Istanbul's Ataturk airport

David Connett
Monday 19 October 2015 20:00
Doubts have been cast over reports that Jacky Sutton killed herself at Ataturk Airport after missing a connecting flight to Iraq
Doubts have been cast over reports that Jacky Sutton killed herself at Ataturk Airport after missing a connecting flight to Iraq

Friends and colleagues of a former BBC journalist found dead in a toilet at a Turkish Airport have said they have serious doubts that, as initial reports suggested, she committed suicide.

Jacky Sutton’s employer called on 19 October for an “open and transparent” investigation into her death, while another friend urged an international rather than a local inquiry.

The body of Ms Sutton, 50, a former BBC journalist, was found at Istanbul’s international airport. It was claimed she was hanging from boot laces and Turkish media reported the death as a suicide.

She arrived at Ataturk Airport from London and had a two-hour wait for a connecting flight to Erbil in northern Iraq, which she apparently missed. It was reported that she became distressed at missing the flight because she did not have funds to pay for a new one.

She was the Iraq country director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an organisation which supports journalism in crisis-hit countries. Anthony Borden of the IWPR questioned the circumstances of her death and called for an “open and transparent” investigation.

“She was extremely bright, highly competent, and well able to handle herself in difficult environments, and she was universally loved. We are in total shock. I find this quick judgment being published almost the minute we learn of her death very impossible to understand... I’m not even sure the boots she was wearing even had laces,” Mr Borden said.

“One can never know what is in someone’s heart and soul. But everything that everyone knew about Jacky was that she a very experienced professional. She had a very positive nature and outlook, and very significant work to get on with,” he added. “She had toys in her bag for the children of staff. The profile doesn’t strike me as right. I can’t get my head around it.”

The former BBC journalist was found dead in a toilet at Ataturk Airport

Ms Sutton was appointed to her role at the end of June following the death of her predecessor Ammar al-Shahbander, who was killed in a car bomb attack in Baghdad in May. She had been in London for a memorial service for Mr al-Shahbander last week and was returning to Erbil in Iraq via Istanbul.

Mr Borden said Ms Sutton’s sister, a psychologist, would be travelling to Istanbul with an IWPR employee to meet with British and Turkish officials. The Foreign Office said it was “providing consular assistance” to her family.

A number of colleagues expressed doubt about the inquiry. Jane Pearce, the World Food Programme representative for Iraq, tweeted: “Mourning my friend & colleague Jacky Sutton. Simply don’t believe the news reports.”

Journalist and international development worker Rebecca Cooke tweeted: “An international not just local investigation is needed.”

Sudipto Mukerjee, a country director with the UN Development Programme, wrote: “Very difficult to believe that my colleague in Iraq, staffer and seasoned traveller Jacky Sutton committed suicide.”

Ms Sutton, who spoke five languages including basic Arabic, was divorced with no children. She worked for the BBC World Service between 1998 and 2000, reporting from Africa, the Middle East and London.

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