Wife of heir to Tetra Pak fortune killed by cocaine abuse

LONDON (Reuters) - The American wife of one of Britain’s richest men, whose body lay rotting at their London home for two months after her death, died from cocaine abuse, a coroner said on Friday.

A policeman stands guard in front of the home of Eva Rausing in London July 11, 2012. London murder detectives are investigating the death of the American wife of an heir to the Tetra Pak drinks carton fortune. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Eva Rausing, whose husband Hans is heir to a fortune from the Swedish packaging firm Tetra Pak, was found in July in an advanced state of decomposition under layers of clothes and bin liners in a fly-infested room on the second floor of their six-storey townhouse in an upmarket area of London.

The 48-year-old’s body was only discovered after police officers went to their house after stopping her husband for driving erratically.

She was found with a silver foil in her hand which had been rolled up as a pipe, indicating it had been used for smoking cocaine. A post-mortem established that she had died more than two months earlier in May.

Deputy coroner Shirley Radcliffe ruled that Rausing, who suffered from the heart condition tricuspid valve disease and had had a pacemaker fitted, had died from cocaine intoxication.

Hans Rausing, who was given a suspended 10-month jail sentence in August for preventing the “lawful and decent” burial of his wife, said he had not been able to deal with losing her.

“I’m devastated by my beloved wife’s death,” he said in a statement read to Westminster Coroners’ Court. “I could not cope with her dying or confront the reality of her death.”

He said how he had been in the bathroom shaving when he heard her slide off the bed.

“She landed sideways and her head was resting on a pillow. I tried to pull her up. I shouted ‘Eva, Eva, Eva’,” he said, before covering her body with duvets and bedding.

The couple, who have four children, had a long history of problems with drugs. They first met at a U.S. rehabilitation centre and gave generously to addiction treatment centres.

Eva Rausing’s family have said they believed she turned to drugs in her late teens to overcome acute shyness.

The Swedish Rausing family made a fortune by building up the Tetra Pak drinks packaging business, but Hans’s father sold his share of it to his brother in the 1990s, and is now worth an estimated $10 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Writing by Michael Holden. Editing by Jane Merriman