Rausing's Body Found in 'Bin Bags'

Eva Rausing’s husband appeared in court to face charges related to her death—though not for murder, the initial cause of his arrest. Mike Giglio reports on the heiress’s tragic tale.

07.18.12 12:19 PM ET

The husband of Eva Rausing appeared in a London court today to face charges related to her death—though not for murder, the initial cause of his arrest.

Instead, Hans Kristian Rausing, an heir to the multi-billion-dollar Swedish TetraPak fortune, was charged with preventing the lawful and decent burial of his wife’s body. In jarring testimony presented in court today, it was revealed that police discovered her remains in garbage bags sealed with tape.

The body was found beneath a pile of bedsheets in an advanced state of decay, the court heard, inside a bedroom full of house flies that had also been sealed with tape. "On the floor next to the bed they found a large quantity of bedding, with bin bags stuck together with gaffer tape. It was several feet deep,” prosecutor Brinkman May said, according to the Evening Standard.

Wearing a beard and a navy suit jackey, the 49-year-old Rausing spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth. He is being represented by Alexander Cameron, a high-profile lawyer who is the brother of British Prime Minister David Cameron. After his appearance, Rausing was granted bail on the condition that he reside at a medical facility. Rausing will make his next court appearance on July 26.

Today’s developments lend grim credence to reports that Rausing may have lived with his wife’s body in their Belgravia mansion for days after her death, the sad denouement of the couple’s long battle with drug addiction. Police discovered the body only after Rausing was stopped for erratic driving and a crack pipe was found in his car, May said, leading to a search of the five-story home. “After a search of the boot officers found several unopened letters addressed to Eva Kemeny [her maiden name]. When officers asked who this person was, his demeanour changed and he appeared to well up.”

In the interim, dark details emerged from the days leading up to the arrest. Police have yet to determine an official cause for Rausing’s death, but a drug overdose has been suspected. Citing friends of the family, British media have reported that the Rausing home had degenerated into a drug den, with the Rausings increasingly confining themselves to a couple of rooms. Eva’s sister, Be Kemeny, recently revealed that she hadn’t been able to reach her since early June, and had even traveled to London in despair. “I went upstairs to her bedroom and I was knocking on the door and texting her and calling out to her and there was no reply,” she told the Daily Mail. “I think my sister was in there, passed away. I’d been worrying for weeks. I suspected something awful had happened.”

Rausing was last seen alived on May 3, the court heard today.

In a statement released today, Hans’ parents painted the recent developments as part as their son’s addiction-fueled decline. “Hans and Märit Rausing and their families are mourning the death of their son’s beloved wife, Eva. Her death, and the details of subsequent events, are a reminder of the distorted reality of drug addiction,” the statement says. “They desperately hope that their dear son, Hans, may find the strength to begin the long and hard journey of de-toxification and rehabilitation.”

The Kemeny family has likewise maintained their support for Hans. In a written tribute to Eva that was distributed to reporters yesterday, her father Tom, a former Pepsi executive who lives in South Carolina, said the family loved him “unconditionally with all our hearts.”

“Eva and Hans Kristian adored each other,” Kemeny said.

The tribute also detailed the couple’s long history championing philanthropic causes, often with a focus on addiction, which had helped to define their relationship from the start. The American-born Eva met Hans at a drug-rehabilitation clinic in the 1980s, and the couple went on to endure long and often public battles with addiction. Their personal experiences often fueled their charitable work. Eva was a patron of the prevention charity Mentor, and also provided deep financial backing, along with her husband, to Action on Addiction, which targets young addicts. The couple also established a rehabilitation center for locals in Barbados that is now a decade old. “Eva and Hans Kristian ‘saved’ thousands of lives — tragically not her own. This is a stark reminder that the illness of addiction knows no social class or gender,” Kemeny said in his tribute.

Kemeny said the couple, who were wed in 1992, had been clean for the first 12 years of their marriage but were eventually pulled back into the throes of addiction, in particular to crack cocaine. In April 2008, they were arrested after an incident at the American embassy in London, where a routine security search turned up crack and heroin in Eva’s bag. A subsequent police search of the Rausing home turned up more than 50 grams of cocaine, as well as anti-anxiety drugs in Eva’s car. Both received charges for possession, which were later dropped with conditional cautions. “I have made a grave error, and consider myself to have taken a wrong turn in the course of my life,” Eva said at the time from the steps of her home.

Recent photos published in British tabloids showed the two as haunted shells of their former selves, a far cry from the glamorous couple that had been seen in better days on the British high society scene. In his tribute, Kemeny noted that Eva had been receiving treatment in California shortly before her death, but had returned to London in hopes of convincing her husband to come along. “At the time of her death her over-riding concern was for the safety of her beloved husband,” he said. “She interrupted her own treatment to return to London in an attempt to take him back with her to California, but tragically to no avail.”