LONDON – For more than two months, Hans Kristian Rausing, a son of a billionaire, acted as if everything was fine, even though the corpse of his wife Eva was decomposing in their luxury home in central London.
He went about his routines as normal, and when friends or family asked about Eva, he would give vague replies, never suggesting that anything was awry.
But the macabre pretense was dropped on July 9 when London police stopped him for driving erratically and, after finding drugs, searched his home. They found Eva's body in a fly-filled room under a pile of clothing and garbage bags that had been taped together.
The bizarre case of two extremely wealthy, drug-addicted souls who had contributed millions to anti-drug charities reached its climax in court Wednesday when Hans Kristian pleaded guilty to preventing the proper burial of his wife. He was sentenced to a 10-month suspended jail sentence that will require him to receive extensive treatment at a drug rehab center.
Hans Kristian, 49, has not been charged with doing anything to contribute to Eva's death, and police have not indicated that foul play was involved. In a statement read in court, Hans Kristian said he could not face her death and believes he suffered a breakdown after Eva died.
"I did not feel able to confront the reality of her death," Hans Kristian said he said in the statement, adding that he "batted away" any inquiries about his wife.
"I do not feel, with the benefit of hindsight, that following her death I acted rationally," he said, adding that he had been "very traumatized" by her death.
The details revealed in court Wednesday established that investigators believe Eva died on May 7, with drugs including cocaine in her system, and that her husband admitted that he kept her in their home rather than report her death to authorities.
But Hans Kristian, whose father made billions selling his stake in the Tetra Pak drinks-carton empire, denied doing her any harm, or providing her with drugs.
"I do not have a very coherent recollection of the events leading up to and since Eva's death," his statement read. "Safe to assure you that I have never wished her or done her any harm."
He said he did not know what had caused the death of his 48-year-old wife. Officials have not yet established the actual cause of death, which is still being investigated.
Hans Kristian's unexpected guilty plea, which followed weeks of treatment at a psychiatric facility, caps a tragic story of addiction and wealth. Eva Rausing came from an affluent American family, and Hans Kristian is a scion of one of Europe's richest families.
But both were unable to conquer drug abuse despite repeated attempts at rehab and a variety of treatment regimes.
Their drug problems, long an open secret among family and friends, first came to public attention in 2008 after Eva Rausing was caught trying to bring heroin and crack cocaine into the heavily-guarded U.S. Embassy in London. A subsequent search of their home turned up a large quantity of cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin.
Their four children are being raised by one of Hans Kristian's sisters.
Hans Kristian's parents, Hans and Marit Rausing, released a supportive statement several weeks ago characterizing Eva's death and its aftermath as "a reminder of the distorted reality of drug addiction."
They said they hoped their "dear son Hans" could find the strength to begin the "long and hard" journey of rehabilitation.
Hans Kristian's father has a net worth estimated at 4.3 billion pounds ($6.7 billion) from the sale of his state in the Tetra Pak milk-carton packaging company.