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Ex-BBC journalist found dead in Istanbul airport bathroom

A Turkish state-run report claims an emotional Jacky Sutton, 50, hanged herself in a bathroom at Ataturk Airport after missing a flight. Some who knew her suspect she was murdered.AFP/AFP/Getty Images

A Turkish state-run report claims an emotional Jacky Sutton, 50, hanged herself in a bathroom at Ataturk Airport after missing a flight. Some who knew her suspect she was murdered.

A former BBC journalist was mysteriously found dead in a Turkish airport bathroom, immediately sparking speculation that the journalism advocate based in Iraq was murdered.

Jacky Sutton, 50, was flying from London to Iraq late Saturday night when a local state-run report claims she took her own life after missing a connecting flight at Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul.

According to an unsourced report by Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, Sutton was distraught over not having enough money to buy a new ticket home.

Turkey’s private Dogan news agency, also not citing a source, said she hanged herself with shoelaces from the hook of a bathroom door. Her body was reportedly discovered by three Russian tourists who alerted police early Sunday morning.

At the time of her death Sutton was serving as acting Iraq director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an organization which promotes journalism in conflict zones, and was returning to her base in Irbil, Iraq, IWPR said.

She was appointed in June, the organization said, after the car-bombing death of their previous country director in Iraq.

“The circumstances of her death are unclear and we are trying to establish the facts,” IWPR said.

The organization’s executive director, Anthony Borden, said Sutton would have known that they would have paid for a new flight which is a relatively common occurrence.

“Clearly there would have been no issue (with money). It’s really inconceivable. We change tickets all the time,” he said.

In a statement released Monday, she was described by the organization as being “full of plans for innovative new work, including projects to counter violent extremism that threatens a country to which she was so committed.”

Charlie Winter, a researcher on jihadism at the think tank Quilliam Foundation, said he met with her only last week to discuss projects she was working on and she appeared energized and excited while discussing his work on Islamic State propaganda.

“It took my breath away when I heard the news,” he told the Telegraph of his reaction to her death.

“I know one can never really tell if someone is suicidal but when we met she seemed really happy, very driven and focused on her work and what she wanted to do.

“She was so passionate and she spoke about the future and we organized a follow-up meeting for the next time she was in the UK. It fundamentally doesn’t make sense to me that she is alleged to have killed herself — she was so motivated and driven. It just doesn’t add up,” he said.

Her former friends and colleagues also expressed skepticism on Twitter.

“Mourning my friend & colleague jacky (sic) Sutton tonight. Simply don’t believe the news reports,” World Food Program Director for Iraq, Jane Pearce, tweeted.

“Unless I see evidence beyond reasonable doubt that #JackySutton committed suicide, I am convinced that she has been killed. RIP,” tweeted Iraq and Kurdistan analyst Hiwa Osman.

Sutton worked as a producer and broadcaster for BBC World between 1998 and 2000, according to IWPR.

Before joining the news organization in London, she also served with the United Nations and was detained as a spy in Africa in 1995. The experience left her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a short autobiography posted by the blog, Her Canberra, on Monday.

With News Wire Services

ngolgowski@nydailynews.com

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