A “fearless” former BBC journalist hanged herself in an airport toilet in a spur of the moment decision after missing a flight, an inquest has heard.
Veteran war reporter Jacqueline Sutton, 50, was found hanged in a cubicle at Ataturk airport in Istanbul after she missed a connecting flight to Iraq last October.
Ms Sutton had landed in the Turkish capital from Heathrow with the intention of travelling on to Erbil in Iraq, North London Coroner’s Court was told.
The BBC producer had been working as the Iraq director of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), a London-based charity network.
She missed her connecting flight, however, after drinking two cans of beer in the departure lounge, the court heard. Staff said Ms Sutton had told them she had no money, before becoming visibly upset and going into the airport toilets.
While friends of Ms Sutton had previously expressed concerns over the suggestion that she had taken her own life, the coroner, Andrew Walker, gave the verdict of suicide.
He told the court: “She made an exit from the lounge displaying no signs of dismay or distraction. But she had missed her flight.”
“She told the staff she had no money to pay for another and began crying. They told her that nothing could be done.”
Mr Walker told the hearing that seven women, including one with a child, entered and left the bathroom before two Russian travellers saw the body and alerted airport staff.
Speaking at the hearing, Ms Sutton’s sister Jenny said her death came after a moment of “extreme stress and panic” and made the decision “on the spur of the moment”.
She said: “I don't believe that it was premeditated. I don't believe she had a prior intention to take her life.”
”In that moment she was in a moment of extreme stress, panic, and made that decision on the spur of the moment. But it was her decision.“
When asked by the coroner: ”Would you like me to add that this an impulsive act?“ Ms Sutton’s sister said: ”Yes.“
Speaking after the hearing, Jenny Sutton said her sister would have been pleased to see the ”ghastly folly“ of the Iraq War laid bare by the Chilcot report last week.
She said: ”The one thing I would like to say is that I know that what she was doing before he death, in Iraqi-Kurdistan, was that she was working with a Kurdish journalist, gathering stories from Iraqi people and Kurdish Christians, Sunni, Shia, Muslims, Jews.
“She was gathering stories for how those communities had lived together for generations in peaceful coexistence before the interference of the West and before the war opened up such horrible sectarian divisions.
”I think a contributory factor to the blackness that overcame my sister was seeing the suffering of the people of the Middle East.
“We'd marched together against the war and she had been living in war zones for a long time and had absorbed a lot of the suffering of those people and I think she would be pleased to see the Chilcot report coming out and to see the findings, to see the ghastly folly of American and British invasion in that region and all the trauma and suffering in that region that has resulted.”
She added: “It's been very difficult, but I think anybody with empathy living in war zones feels the pain.
“Jacqueline would be the first to say that her first thoughts were for the Kurdish, Iraqi people in the region for many years. She was extraordinarily brave, fearless, and loving.”
Ms Sutton was born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire and was one of four children, with two sisters and a brother.
After graduating from university, she worked for various humanitarian organisations and lived and worked in several counties around the world for the BBC and the United Nations.
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