LONDON -- The billionaire husband of a socialite known for supporting substance-abuse charities while battling her own addiction to drugs has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with her unexplained death this week, police said Friday.
Hans Kristian Rausing, 49, has been in custody since Monday, when police arrested him on suspicion of drug possession. Later that day, officers discovered the body of his wife, Eva Rausing, in the couple’s luxurious London townhouse, leading to further investigation of the heir to the Tetra Pak fortune.
“He has been arrested on suspicion of her murder,” Det. Inspector Sharon Marman said in court Friday during a preliminary inquiry into the death. However, no cause of death has yet been identified and could take weeks to establish.
Marman said police have still to interview Hans Rausing because he is not in a fit state to be questioned. Media reports say he is undergoing treatment for withdrawal from drugs and alcohol.
The case has caused a stir because the Rausings were well-known philanthropists whose charitable work earned praise from Prince Charles. Their lavish donations came from a vast fortune Rausing inherited from his Swedish family's company, which pioneered the drink cartons ubiquitous in food-packaging today.
In spite of, or because of, her own drug problems, Eva Rausing, 48, was the patron of various anti-addiction organizations.
Her personal demons resulted in a brush with the law four years ago, when a security check discovered crack cocaine and heroin in her purse as she tried to get into the U.S. Embassy in London. A subsequent search of the Rausings’ home in the city's tony Belgravia neighborhood turned up more drugs and resulted in the couple’s arrest, but charges against them were dropped; critics said they got off merely with a police warning because of their connections.
Once fixtures of high society, the Rausings had reportedly dropped from public view in recent months. Photographs of them said to be shot recently showed a man and woman looking haggard and unwell.
Marman, the detective inspector, said in court Friday that Hans Rausing was stopped in South London for driving erratically Monday and that drugs were found in his car. His wife’s body was discovered during a search of their home.
Media reports have speculated that she might already have been dead for several days. An autopsy Tuesday did not yield a cause of death, but more test results are pending, police said.
The daughter of a wealthy Pepsi executive, Eva Rausing had intended to check into a rehab center in California, her mother told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“They were getting ready to go. Her husband had his passport, and they were getting ready to go back to California,” the paper quoted Nancy Kemeny as saying from her home in South Carolina. “We had high hopes.”
-- Henry Chu
Photo: Hans Kristian Rausing and Eva Rausing at a function at the U.S. Embassy in London in 1996. Credit: Alan Davidson / Associated Press