A former BBC journalist who was found dead in toilets at Istanbul airport killed herself in an “impulsive act” after missing a flight, a coroner at her inquest has said.
Recording a verdict of suicide at north London coroner’s court, Andrew Walker said there was no “explanation or reason” for Jacky Sutton’s actions but he was satisfied she had acted alone.
Sutton, 50, was in transit from London to Irbil, Iraq, where she was working, when she died in October last year. Her flight from London landed shortly after 10pm on 17 October, and her onward flight was due to leave at 12.15am.
The findings of an investigation into Sutton’s death, partially read out by Walker, said she had gone to wait in a cafe where she sat alone and drank two cans of beer. CCTV showed that just before 12.30am she went to the boarding desk “without displaying any signs of hurry”, only to be told that her flight had taken off.
“She [said] she had no money and began crying, but the officer on the desk told her there was nothing that could be done,” the coroner said.
At 1am she went to the toilets, and three Russian travellers later raised the alarm. Airport staff found her body in a cubicle and a first-aid team tried to resuscitate her, but without success.
CCTV showed at least seven women had entered and left the toilets before Sutton’s body was found, and no men, the coroner said. He was satisfied that nobody else was involved in her death.
At the time of her death, Sutton was acting country director for Iraq for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a not-for-profit journalism organisation. Walker said he had considered an investigation into her death by the organisation did not “change the facts”. He did not say what the investigation had found.
“There doesn’t appear to be any explanation or reason for what happened to Miss Sutton,” he said.
Sutton’s sister Jenny told the coroner: “I don’t believe it was premeditated. I don’t believe she had a prior intention to take her life, but that in the moment she was in extreme stress … she made that decision on the spur of the moment, but it was her decision.” Walker agreed to record that it was an impulsive act.
Sutton, who was born in Hertfordshire, lived in Australia.
After the inquest, Jenny Sutton paid tribute to her “brave, fearless and loving” sister and described the work she had been doing in Iraq before her death.
“She was working with a Kurdish journalist gathering stories from Iraqi people: Kurds, Christians, Sunni, Shia, Muslim, Jew. 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 divisions.”
She added: “I think a contributing factor to the blackness that overcame my sister was seeing the suffering of the people of the Middle East.” Her sister had “absorbed the suffering” of Iraqis and others.
Jenny Sutton said she and her sister had marched together against the war in Iraq. “She would have been pleased to see the Chilcot report coming out and to see [the focus on] the ghastly folly of the American and British invasion of the region and all the … suffering that has been the result,” she said.
• In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.