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Thread: British journalist and student Jacky Sutton found dead at airport in Istanbul

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    Default British journalist and student Jacky Sutton found dead at airport in Istanbul

    British journalist and student Jacky Sutton found dead at airport in Istanbul

    http://www.msn.com/en-au/news/world/british-journalist-and-student-jacky-sutton-found-dead-at-airport-in-istanbul/ar-AAfBp38?li=AAabC8j&ocid=

    The Independent
    Olivia Blair 1 hour ago


    A British woman has been found dead in Istanbul, although circumstances as to how she died are currently unclear.


    © Provided by The Independent


    Journalist and student, Jacqueline Sutton, known as Jacky, was reportedly found dead at Istanbul airport.

    She has previously worked for the BBC and United Nations and was a student studying for her PhD, where she was researching international development support to female media professionals in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2013.

    Ms Sutton, 50, was reportedly due to catch a flight to Erbil in Iraq, where she was carrying out field work for her studies. It is thought she had flown from London to Ataturk Airport, in Istanbul, on Saturday night (October 17).

    It is not yet known how Ms Sutton died. Friends have questioned Turkish media reports that Ms Sutton killed herself after missing a connecting flight to Erbil and not having the money to buy another ticket.

    Rebecca Cooke told the Press Association: “Shocking and sad news about the death of Jacky Sutton in Istanbul. An international, not just local investigation is needed.”

    Tributes have also been paid by Ms Sutton’s colleagues. Professor Amin Saikal the director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, where Ms Sutton was studying, said staff were “deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic death of one of its brilliant PhD students.

    According to the BBC, he said: “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 centre.”

    The Foreign Office confirmed it is providing consular assistance to Ms Sutton’s family.

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    What happened to Jacky Sutton?

    http://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/what-happened-to-jacky-sutton/ar-AAfJnq6?li=AAavLaF&ocid=

    The Age
    Jane Cadzow 13 hrs ago



    (© REX Shutterstock) Campaigner Jacky Sutton.


    "Nobody should die on their own." The words were clear and firm. Jacky Sutton was remembering a friend who succumbed to AIDS when they worked together on a newspaper in Eritrea, in north-eastern Africa. Her colleague's relatives were afraid to go near him – this was the 1990s, when many believed the disease was highly contagious – so it was Sutton who kept him company while his life ebbed away. "I would visit him in hospital and hold his hand," she said.

    Last month, Sutton was found dead and alone in a rest room at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport. The circumstances were so strange that the story made international headlines. Turkish police conducted an investigation and swiftly released their findings, but to those who knew the Australian-based journalist and aid worker, nothing about the case made sense.

    Some of Sutton's friends suspect there has been a cover-up. Almost all those I contact feel they have been left with more questions than answers. "It is a mystery," says Professor Amin Saikal, director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, where Sutton, 50, was doing a PhD.

    News of the discovery of Sutton's body reached Saikal on the morning of Monday, October 19. "My secretary telephoned me," he recalls, "and she said, 'Where are you?' I said, 'I'm just getting my coffee.' She was crying on the phone. She said, 'It's about Jacky.' "



    © Fairfax Media Sutton with Susan Hutchinson.


    Sutton's warmth and confidence were what struck me when I met her briefly about a year ago. Though quietly spoken, she had the chipper, capable air peculiar to a certain type of Englishwoman. Raised in Hertfordshire and Essex in an educated, middle-class family, she had settled in Australia after 25 years ricocheting around the globe from one trouble spot to another. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Gaza, Somalia, Ethiopia – these were the kinds of places in which Sutton plied her trade, yet there was a lingering hint of the home counties about her. Something well-mannered and unflappable. Good in a crisis, you felt certain.

    In an interview recorded late last year, but never broadcast, Sutton talked to Amanda Whitley, editor of the HerCanberra website, about some of the dangers she had faced in the line of duty. "We were getting about 20 mortars coming into the Green Zone each day," she said, reminiscing about her role as media manager for the United Nations Development Program in Baghdad, when the Iraq War was in full swing. "And it was just a question of luck. If you were under one of those mortars, that was it."

    At night, she said, she would be woken by the blaring alarm that warned residents of the international zone to don helmets and flak jackets and take cover. She became inured to it. "I'd hear the claxon and think, 'Oh well, whatever. I'm just going to go back to sleep and if I wake up, I wake up. If I don't, I don't.' "

    She also told Whitley of stumbling upon corruption within a UN agency that employed her in Afghanistan, and of securing the release from prison of a colleague who had tried to blow the whistle ("I basically raised hell"). Forced to leave Kabul in a hurry, she first organized safe passage for her cat, Genghis – a one-eyed, rag-eared, toothless creature she had found in the street. "I arranged for her to be smuggled across the Khyber Pass into Islamabad, where she was put on a plane to join me in Ghana," Sutton said.

    You got the impression that both Genghis and her owner were plucky survivors. Sutton, certainly, was a formidable operator. So when reports surfaced that she had hanged herself in a toilet cubicle at Istanbul airport after missing a plane, reactions ranged from incredulity to outright disbelief.

    On Twitter, one of her ANU colleagues, research fellow Christian Bleuer, summed up the mood: "Jacky Sutton worked in Afghanistan & Iraq. Toughest woman u could meet. Turkish police say she committed suicide cuz she missed her flight?" From the beginning, there was conjecture that someone had wanted Sutton out of the way. "Unless I see evidence beyond reasonable doubt that #JackySutton committed suicide," tweeted Hiwa Osman, a leading Iraqi Kurdish journalist and political analyst, "I am convinced that she has been killed. RIP."



    (© Fairfax Media) Sutton in relaxed mode on holidays at Petra archaeological site in Jordan.


    It was on the fourth day of a Baghdad dust storm that Sutton decided to apply to migrate to Australia. "I thought, 'I just want to be on the other side of the world, where the air is clean and the sky is blue,' " she told ABC Radio. She had met a lot of Australians working for the UN, and liked them. "I thought it would be really nice to live in a country surrounded by nice, down-to-earth people."

    She moved to Canberra in late 2013, and by early the next year was ensconced at the ANU's Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, working on a PhD dissertation on the role of women in the media in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soon she was tutoring in Middle Eastern politics. "The feedback we got from the students – they were very happy with her," says centre director Amin Saikal, who was impressed by Sutton's temperament as well as her intellect. "I found her to be an incredibly level-headed individual."

    In the Middle East, Sutton had drivers and bodyguards; in peaceful, leafy Canberra, she caught buses or rode a bike. She bought an apartment, decorating it with the carpets and ceramics she had collected on her travels. She adopted two cats and quickly made many friends. "We hit it off right away," says PhD scholar Susan Hutchinson. "We clicked immediately," says Sara Vancea, who met her through the local vegan society. "For a woman who was really such a nomad," says Amanda Whitley, "she formed these quite amazing connections with people."

    After a while, though, Sutton began to get restless. At the office of the Australian committee for UN Women, where she had taken a part-time job, she made clear to a colleague, Elizabeth Mulhall, that she felt a long way from the centre of things. "She really enjoyed ANU and was finding the academic community very stimulating," Mulhall says. "But she was always talking about how she was itching to get back to the field." Yes, she had found working in conflict zones stressful, but the truth was, Sutton missed the adrenaline. "She said it can become quite addictive for people."

    In May this year, a car-bomb in Baghdad killed one of Sutton's old friends, Ammar Al-Shahbander, the 41-year-old head of the Iraq operations of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). Her response was to contact the UK-based institute, which trains journalists in war-torn countries, and offer to take over Al-Shahbander's job while a permanent replacement was recruited. IWPR's executive director, Anthony Borden, says he was grateful: "She was the only person who could possibly step into Ammar's shoes and do it seamlessly."

    Al-Shahbander had not been the target of the bomb blast, for which the extremist militant group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility: he had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, Sutton took precautions when she arrived in Erbil, the city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq where she was to be based.

    In an email to Amanda Whitley, she said she didn't intend to post much on Facebook "because there is no point in drawing attention to myself and my colleagues". The accommodation initially provided for her had seemed unsafe, she said, "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'. "

    She moved in with the family of journalist Hiwa Osman, who lived in a gated community within the city. By September, when she was visited by one of her closest Australian friends, ANU colleague Sebastian Klich, she had found herself a pet: a mangy, malnourished rabbit she was trying to nurse back to health. "It looked like it needed to be put down, to be quite frank," says Klich, who had reluctantly agreed to bring a sack of rabbit food in his suitcase. Sutton, on the other hand, appeared to Klich to be thriving. "It was like seeing her in her home habitat," he says. "This is what she did. What she loved doing. She was helping people and she had a cause."

    The day before Klich left on September 29, Sutton got some good news. Her application for a grant for a major new IWPR project – training Iraqis to use social media to counter violent extremism – had been successful. "She'd secured a million dollars in funding," Klich says. "She was stoked. Over the moon."



    (© Australscope/Fairfax Media) CCTV footage from Istanbul airport showing her movements just before she died.


    A memorial service for Al-Shahbander was held in London in mid-October. Sutton, who attended, spent a few days meeting with other members of IWPR's Middle East team. Anthony Borden describes it as "a very intense and emotional but ultimately uplifting week", which left all determined to carry on their murdered colleague's work: "Okay, we've bonded, we've hugged, we've cried. Now let's take that legacy forward."

    To security specialist Chris Cobb-Smith, it was obvious that Sutton was keen to get back to Erbil and throw herself into the social media project. "She was hugely passionate about what she was going to do, and looking forward to it," Cobb-Smith says.

    In Sutton's luggage for the return journey to Iraq were books for her PhD research, presents for Osman's children and 10 kilos of rabbit food. At Istanbul airport, where her flight from London landed about 10pm on October 17, she bought two bottles of wine she had promised a friend. Closed-circuit cameras captured her as she strolled through the transit area: a slender, short-haired woman wearing a purple top and carrying a backpack. She had two hours before her flight to Erbil.

    Because of the cameras, we know that Sutton headed for a cafe, where she ordered a beer and drank it slowly while reading a John Grisham novel. After an hour, she made her way to a waiting area where she sat down and apparently fell asleep. When boarding calls were made for her flight, she did not move. At 12.15am, when Sutton's plane left on schedule, she was still in her seat.

    Fifteen minutes later, she walked to the departure gate and found it closed. She went to an inquiry desk, where she was told her bags had been off-loaded. The next plane to Erbil was in 12 hours, and if she wanted to be on it, she would have to buy another ticket.

    This was hardly a catastrophe, Borden points out. "Frankly, experienced travellers miss a flight and they pretty much feel relieved," he says. "Okay, I'm going to a hotel.' " IWPR would have paid the airfare. And what difference does it make if you get to Erbil a bit later? "It doesn't make a damn bit of difference."

    Sebastian Klich says: "The Jacky I know would either take the opportunity to have a night out in Istanbul or would start working on her next thesis chapter while waiting for another plane." Instead, Sutton walked directly from the desk to a rest room, where she disappeared from the view of CCTV cameras.

    Over the next seven minutes, people entered and exited the rest room. Then three young women walked in together, only to emerge almost immediately in apparent panic. They ran along the transit hall and returned with an airport official. Within minutes, a medical team arrived.



    (© Fairfax Media) A news report of her death.


    In the English countryside, Anthony Borden was woken on the morning of Sunday, October 18, by a phone call telling him Sutton was dead. He dismissed out of hand reports that she had committed suicide. "I said, 'It's a crime,' " Borden remembers. "That was my immediate reaction and I think everybody else felt the same."

    In Canberra, Sutton's friend, Sara Vancea, had no difficulty believing she had been killed. "A lot of people would have hated her – really, really hated her – for what she was doing," Vancea says. "She would have had a lot of enemies."

    Sutton had spoken out strongly against IS (which she called by its Arabic name, Daesh). And, in her jubilation at landing the million-dollar grant, had forgotten her plan to stay off Facebook: she posted a message saying her social media project was "part of efforts to disrupt the hateful garbage that Daesh is spewing".

    It seemed to colleague Susan Hutchinson that IS wasn't the only suspect: "A bunch of people" might have liked Sutton silenced. "There's a very strong history of the Turkish police at the airport being violent and nasty to people who they perceive as being pro-Kurdish," she says.

    Conspiracy theories flourished online. Comparisons were drawn between Sutton and American broadcast journalist Serena Shim, who had died in a suspicious car accident in Turkey almost exactly a year earlier – on October 19, 2014 – after she had reported seeing IS militants being smuggled over the border into Syria. Sutton had been found alone in a locked toilet cubicle, hanged by her bootlaces from the hook on the back of the door. There were no other signs of violence. But in the minds of many of her friends, this did not rule out murder. "These things can be made to look like suicide," Hutchinson says.

    The alternative – that Sutton had ended her own life – was implausible for so many reasons. "She had just submitted a chapter for her PhD," Hutchinson tells me with a wry smile. "Who kills themself before they've got feedback?" Sutton was buying a small apartment in Spain – she had just transferred the money for the deposit. And though the death of Al-Shahbander had deeply upset her, she seemed to have recovered her equanimity. In the weeks she lived with Hiwa Osman in Erbil, they had many long conversations. "We would have drinks," says Osman, "and you know, when you have a drink you talk about anything and everything." He had then spoken to Sutton most days she was in London. "But there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to suggest that she would be capable of doing anything like this."

    One of the reasons Sutton made friends so readily was her apparent willingness to reveal a lot about herself. "She was such an open book," Amanda Whitley says. "She would pretty much tell you anything about her life." She spoke frankly, for instance, about having suffered a kind of breakdown in 1995 – she thought it was post-traumatic stress disorder – after being accused of spying in Eritrea (she was detained and deported). "Now there would be counselling," she wrote in a piece published on the HerCanberra website, "but back then I was given Prozac and told to soldier on." The drug had "some seriously weird side effects", she added, so she had stopped taking it after a month.

    For Whitley, it was near-impossible to accept that Sutton would leave her pets. Others couldn't believe she would leave her friends and colleagues, or opt out of the work she was committed to doing in Iraq. "She was the sort of person who never let anyone down," says Sebastian Klich, so at first, "everyone was convinced that there was foul play – that someone else was involved".

    Her friends channelled their grief into anger. Then, just four days after Sutton's death, her family and IWPR released a joint statement saying they were satisfied she had acted on her own. "That was a secondary wave that really toppled people," Klich says.

    When I phone Sutton's sister, Jenny, in London, I am as baffled by all this as everyone else. She talks to me for 90 minutes, in which time I slowly become aware that I have been looking at Sutton from just one angle – the angle from which she wished to be viewed. "I think she worked really hard at projecting that image of herself," Jenny says.

    The Sutton whom Jenny knew had much in common with the inspirational figure described to me by her friends: she was brave, intelligent, highly principled and kind. "The sort of person who really would take her coat off on a cold night and give it to somebody in the street," Jenny says.

    But despite her outward self-assurance, she was in some ways quite a fragile individual, plagued throughout her life by a sense of inadequacy: "She really wasn't confident in herself." Sutton was the third of four children – she had two older sisters and a younger brother. According to Jenny, the sister to whom she was closest, her low self-esteem always made her push herself ferociously hard: "She couldn't tolerate weakness or failings in herself."

    As a teenager, she suffered from anorexia. As a young adult, armed with a first-class degree in literature, she disappeared for two years into the wilds of north-western Ontario, where she worked as a volunteer, building houses in Native Canadian communities. It was the start of a lifelong pattern of immersing herself in other people's worlds and taking on their problems. "She absorbed so much suffering," says Jenny. "She cared."

    While in Eritrea, Sutton met her future husband, a member of the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service. "Charles was a really lovely man," says Jenny, who was somewhat surprised when her unconventional sister opted for "a gorgeous white wedding – the full, fluffy regalia". The couple married in 2000 but divorced only four years later. After 9/11, Jenny says, "their views on American foreign policy became completely irreconcilable". Jacky would later write that "the invasion of Iraq was a huge issue, as I was opposed and he was pro".

    But Sutton and her ex-husband stayed in touch. "One of the really tragic things about Jacky is that she and Charles really loved each other, and continued to love each other," Jenny says. "She described him as the love of her life."

    The day Sutton left London to return to Iraq, she told Jenny she had been awake all the previous night, thinking about Al-Shahbander and mourning other deaths. "She was in despair about the Middle East, and she was having a real crisis of confidence about her own capacity to make a difference," Jenny says. "She talked about her loneliness."

    Nevertheless, when Jenny got the call informing her that Sutton appeared to have committed suicide, she was not just distraught but sceptical. "I went to Turkey with the aim of discovering the truth about what happened," she says. "I was completely open to the possibility that it had been foul play."

    In Istanbul, accompanied by a British consular official, a Turkish journalist friend and an IWPR executive, Jenny watched the CCTV footage that tracked Sutton from her arrival at the airport until she walked into the rest room. She saw her sister's body, and a photograph taken from the top of the cubicle when it was discovered. She read the preliminary autopsy report and was handed the complete dossier of the investigation. She tells me she is waiting for the evidence to be independently scrutinised before she considers the case closed, but, yes, she is sure that Sutton killed herself.

    After Jenny returned home, she opened a will her globe-trotting sister had sent her soon after she moved to Canberra. Inside the envelope, she found a letter Sutton had addressed to her family. "She said, 'I'm not in Australia because I don't love you all. I do. If I liked myself more, I'd spend more time with you." Down the phone line from London, I hear Jenny weeping.



    (© Fairfax Media) Sutton on her wedding day in 2000.


    For many, Sutton's death remains a puzzle. "It still doesn't add up," says Anthony Borden. "It will never add up to me." Sebastian Klich understands Sutton's friends' reluctance to accept that she committed suicide. "We had an idea of Jacky that we didn't want to let go of," he says. "We saw her as a fearless warrior, essentially. With a heart of gold." Susan Hutchinson will always see her that way. "I'm never going to be able to rule out something sinister," she says.

    Angela Alaliaoui, the widow of Al-Shahbander, tells me she has been hit hard by Sutton's death. The two women spoke at length after Al-Shahbander's memorial service, and Sutton seemed her usual indomitable self. "If there was a sign, anything, we could have helped her," Alaliaoui says, adding, "I feel so confused."

    Jenny doesn't really understand, either, but she believes her sister had "accumulated trauma" from years of living and working in war zones. And on this particular night, "she was exhausted and emotionally raw." In that frame of mind, she might have been furious with herself for missing the flight. "She would have thought, 'How bloody stupid!' "

    Then, "maybe the person on the desk was tired and a bit impatient or a bit rude," Jenny says. "I don't know. It's late at night. It's a bit of a no man's land, an international airport. There's a sense of alienation – of human flotsam and jetsam, dislodged and unstable and insecure ... I think she just took a snap decision to check out."

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    Elite Member kasippu's Avatar
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    I am not her friend but i also suspect foul play

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    Yeah it's odd that the sister is so convinced it was suicide, but none of it adds up.
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    This brief article omits way too much important detail. Could they not find her primary school teacher's ex husband, her dentist's sister in law or her cousin's friend's next door neighbour for comment?
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