British ex-BBC journalist Jacky Sutton, 50, a veteran in war coverage and the country director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting or IWPR, was found hanged in the toilet of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on Oct. 17. She had been travelling to Irbil, northern Iraq and was on her way to take an onward flight from London to her base in Erbil in Iraq.
Elsewhere in Istanbul, local media is reporting that Sutton was short on cash to buy her ticket to her destination. After a couple of hours, she was found dead in the toilets, BBC reported. “What exactly happened though is not known,” BBC reporter Ben Ando said in his report.
In a statement, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting said it was devastated to find out about Sutton’s death. “The circumstances of her death are unclear, and we are trying to establish the facts,” the Institute said in the statement.
Sutton has impressive credentials of which several, if not all, are related to war. She reported for the BBC World Service in 1998-2000, reporting from Africa and the Middle East. She had also worked for the United Nations, traveling to Afghanistan, Iran, West Africa, Gaza and Iraq. She had once led a media and elections project in Baghdad, became country director for IREX and a consultant for the International Foundation for Electoral systems in Baghdad.
Those close to Sutton suspected foul play behind her death. Australian National University colleague, Christian Bleuer, described her as the toughest woman anyone could meet. In a tweet, first seen by The Express, Bleuer expressed doubts on local reports saying Sutton committed suicide. “Turkish police say she committed suicide because she missed her flight? I’m not into conspiracies, but if the Tirks say a security camera at Istanbul-Ataturk was ‘malfunctioning,’ then Jacky Sutton was murdered,” Bleuer said.
UN World Food Programme Iraq director Jane Pearce shared the same opinion, saying she simply does not believe the local reports. Fellow journalist Rebecca Cooke said an international investigation should take place. “Shocking and sad news about the death of Jacky Sutton in Istanbul. An international not just local investigation is needed,” Cooke said.
Anti-terror think tank Quilliam senior researcher, Charlie Winter, recalled meeting Sutton about a week ago. He said she was passionate about her current work in Iraq. “We met for an hour and she was talking specifics about the projects she was working on, her family and her plans for a next trip back here… Her death came out of the blue,” Winter said.
Anthony Borden, Executive Director of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting remembered Sutton as one of the top development professionals working on Iraq. “She devoted nearly ten years of her life to helping the country. She was extremely bright, highly competent, and well able to handle herself in difficult environments, and she was universally loved. We are in total shock,” he wrote in a statement.