Billionaire Hans Kristian Rausing today escaped jail after he pleaded guilty to preventing the lawful or decent burial of his wife after she died at their $110 million home following a lengthy battle with drug addiction.
Eva Rausing’s decomposing remains were discovered by police when they searched the couple’s home following his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs in south London last month.
Appearing at Isleworth Crown Court, Rausing, whose family made billions from the sale of the Tetra Pak packaging firm, admitted hiding his wife’s remains under clothing and bin bags in a sealed room inside their home.
A post-mortem report found that Mrs. Rausing, 48, who had pacemaker fitted due to a weak heart, had traces of cocaine in her system.
After his arrest Rausing told a doctor: "I know it sounds selfish but I just did not want her to leave."
He received a 10-month jail sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to complete a residential drug treatment program. He must also pay $1,554 toward the prosecution's costs.
Judge Richard McGregor Johnson told Mr. Rausing that had he been "another rich drug user," he would had no hesitation in giving him a custodial sentence, but he accepted that he had been suffering from mental problems at the time of the offense and was of previous good character.
It also emerged that Mrs. Rausing's parents were in the room when police discovered her decomposing remains.
He said: "If ever there was an illustration of the utterly destructive effects of drug misuse has on an individual and their family it is to be found in the facts of this case. You and your wife had every material advantage and for a time a happy family. Your relapse into the misuse of drugs, together with that of your wife destroyed all that.
"It is graphically illustrated by the difference between the rooms that visitors to your home saw and the utter squalor of the rooms you lived in."
The judge said: "In carrying out your intentions, you acted with deceit and deliberation, equipping yourself with items you used to try to prolong the act of concealment. The effect in due course was firstly to cause great concern amongst those anxious as to your wife’s whereabouts, and then to cause the dreadful shock of discovery in distressing circumstances, firstly for those who had to uncover the body but especially for your wife’s parents who were in the room when their daughter’s body was discovered.
"Their understanding and generous response is essentially a tribute to them, but it does too limit the effect that your actions might otherwise have had."
The court was told that Mrs. Rausing and her husband, who have four children, had battled drug addiction for many years and despite being clean for more than a decade. had fallen off the wagon at the turn of the millennium when Mrs. Rausing decided to have a glass of champagne to welcome in the New Year.
James O’Connell, prosecuting, said she had probably been lying dead in the Chelsea mansion for more than two months before being found.
Rausing had attempted to mask the smell of his wife’s rotting remains by spreading a deodorizing powder around the body before suffering a breakdown and descending into an "oblivion" of chaotic drug abuse.
Looking frail and disheveled, Rausing, who has been treated at a secure mental unit since his arrest, appeared in the dock wearing a navy blue blazer, pale blue shirt and red tie. He pleaded guilty to preventing his wife’s burial and also to driving while under the influence of drugs, but will not face any other charges related to the death of Eva Rausing.
The court heard that following his arrest the 49-year-old billionaire had told police: “I fully understand that my beloved wife of 19 years is dead and I am devastated particularly for my children.
“I do not have a very coherent recollection of events leading up to Eva’s death, save to assure you, I have never wished or done her any harm.
“I did not supply her with drugs and I have been very traumatized since her death. I do not know what caused her death, I do not feel able to confront the reality of her death.”
Rausing went on: “With the benefit of hindsight I think that following her death I did not act rationally. I tried to carry on as if her death had not happened and batted away any inquiries about her. I also took some measures to remove the smell. I believe that in the period since Eva’s death I suffered some sort of breakdown.”
O’Connell told the judge, Richard McGregor Johnson, that the offense had come to light on the morning of July 11 when police had stopped Mr Rausing for driving his Bristol Coupe car erratically in Wandsworth.When they searched his car they discovered a large amount of mail belonging to his wife as well as drug paraphernalia.
Officers then went to the couple’s substantial property in Chelsea where they found the second-floor annex locked and sealed with gaffer tape and staff reluctant to allow them entry.
When they went inside they detected a smell indicating a decomposing body and found Mrs. Rausing’s badly rotting remains lying under a pile of clothes, bedding and bin bags.
Alexander Cameron QC, brother of the Prime Minister David Cameron, defending, said Rausing had been devastated by the death of his beloved wife and had been unable to face up to the reality of the situation.
He told the court: “The defendant committed this offense when as Shakespeare would have put it, the balance of his mind was disturbed.”
He said Eva Rausing’s parents had been “laudibly forgiving, supportive and understanding”, with her father Tom describing his son-in-law as a “wonderful father and wonderful man”, but conceding that he was “very ill”.
Cameron explained that both Rausing and his wife had suffered from addiction problems in their youth and had in fact met in a rehabilitation clinic when he was 26 and she was 25. They married in 1992 and had four children and lived a normal family life for 11 years after emerging from rehab.
“They plainly adored each other and were a very loving unit,” Cameron said. But he added: “Things started to go wrong about 1990 to 2000 when the total abstinence of the rehabilitation programs were mildly lessened by Eva’s urge to have a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve.
“Needless to say they both did and slowly but surely the addiction again began to take hold.” Cameron went on: “Despite or perhaps because of the economic circumstances of his upbringing the defendant had always had unusually strong feelings of anxiety, feelings of inferiority, and a tendency to medicate by drug taking.”
The court heard that the couple’s addiction worsened in 2007 at which point they began living almost exclusively on the second floor of their home, having little contact with anyone from the outside world.
Prior to her death Mrs. Rausing entered a drug rehabilitation program in California, returning to London on April 29.
Cameron said her husband had not gone because he had been unable to locate his passport. He added: “They had around a week together before she died.”
Initial toxicology reports indicated the presence of cocaine and amphetamines and indications from her pacemaker suggested the date of death was the morning of May 7.
CPS London head of homicide Gary Dolby said: “When making the decision to charge Hans Rausing with preventing the lawful burial of Eva Rausing, the Crown Prosecution Service gave careful consideration as to whether a prosecution was in the public interest.
“Mr. Rausing has well documented personal problems which no doubt contributed to his actions in the weeks following his wife’s death. However, he went to some lengths to conceal her body despite numerous opportunities to tell someone what had happened. This resulted in Mrs. Rausing’s family being unaware of her death for some time after it happened.
“His actions were unlawful and it is right that he now has a criminal conviction.”