Ex-BBC journalist Jacky Sutton found hanged in airport ‘feared ISIS would kill her’
Sutton, 50, was found hanged in a toilet cubicle in the early hours of Sunday morning after missing her connecting flight from Istanbul to Erbil, Iraq, which departed at 12:15am.
According to airport staff, Sutton appeared distressed when she was told she had to buy another ticket.
RIP !!!! Jacky Sutton .... جاكي مديرة معهد صحافة بعد استاذ عمار وزميلتي تتوفى في اسطنبول ... pic.twitter.com/a1aPz8tLvZ— Mustafa مصطفى (@msiq88) October 18, 2015
She was found dead a few hours later.
The full circumstances of her death remain unknown, but friends and colleagues insist she must have been murdered.
‘I had PTSD, I was unable to cope’
It has emerged that Sutton had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being detained for spying in Africa in 1995.
In a new blog post which includes an autobiography written by Sutton, it said she was “unable to cope” after being detained for five years.
“I was detained as a spy and deported and many people fled the country,” it said.
“I got (a scholarship) to do a PhD at Leeds University, but my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I think I had PTSD from the detention so I was unable to cope.
“Now there would be counseling, but back then I was given Prozac (anti-depressants) and told to soldier on. I took Prozac for a month, but it had some seriously weird side effects so I stopped.”
In an email sent to her friend Amanda Whitley in June, Sutton said she feared being targeted by Islamic State while working in Erbil.
“I’m in a hotel at the moment – a low key one with hardly any guests. The accommodation that had been prepared was basically one room and a bathroom above the office with only one door in and out, and that off the street.”
“So if someone came in uninvited I was trapped and, as my Kurdish friends said, ‘It just needs one whacko to hear in the Friday prayers that killing foreigners is jihad, and they’ll come knocking at your door in a heartbeat.’”
‘Someone killed Jacky’
Iraqi journalist Mazin Elias, who has previously worked with Sutton, said it is highly unlikely she committed suicide, alleging “someone killed Jacky.”
“She continued in Iraq – everything was difficult, everything was a challenge, but she still continued,” he told the Mail Online.
“But, what I’m sure about, the kind of person that Jacky was, it’s impossible she would have killed herself, impossible.
“She’s really looking for a better life for everyone. So kill herself? That’s crazy.
“I’m really sad and sorry what happened, but if someone tells me ‘she killed herself,’ I tell him: ‘No, that’s wrong, someone killed Jacky.’”
I don't for 1 second believe that #JackySutton killed herself. When we met on Monday she was engaging, driven; seemed anything but suicidal.— Charlie Winter (@charliewinter) October 19, 2015
Another of Sutton’s former colleagues, Rebecca Cooke, has called for an investigation into her death.
“Shocking and sad news about the death of Jacky Sutton in Istanbul. An international, not just local, investigation is needed,” she told the Press Association.
Unless I see evidence beyond reasonable doubt that #JackySutton committed suicide, I am convinced that she has been killed. RIP— Hiwa Osman (@Hiwaosman) October 19, 2015
"I'm not into conspiracies, but if the Turks say a security camera at Istanbul-Ataturk was 'malfunctioning', then Jacky Sutton was murdered"— @Hevallo (@Hevallo) October 19, 2015
Sutton’s friend Christian Bluer also expressed his doubts on Twitter.
“I’m not into conspiracies, but if the Turks say a security camera at Istanbul-Ataturk was malfunctioning then Jacky Sutton was murdered,” he tweeted.
Sutton had also been studying for a PhD at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University.
Her former professor Amin Saikal said he is “deeply saddened” by the news.
“We are deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic death of one of our brilliant PhD students,” he said.
Today, we are angry and grieving for Jacky Sutton. Tomorrow we’ll be seeking answers and calling for urgent action.— IWDA (@iwda) October 19, 2015
Jacky Sutton was a fearless advocate for women’s rights. Her passing brings home the risks women human rights defenders face every day.— IWDA (@iwda) October 19, 2015
“She was not only an outstanding research scholar, but a highly valued friend and colleague who made remarkable contributions to the work and activities of the center.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We can confirm the death of a British national in Istanbul. We are providing consular assistance to the family at this difficult time.”
Sutton’s death comes just five months after previous IWPR director Ammar Al Shahbander was killed in a car bomb attack in Baghdad.