Jacky Sutton, British Journalist: Suspicious Death in Istanbul Airport

By Amy L. Beam, Ed.D.:2013 amy beam headshot4

British journalist Jacky Sutton, 50, travelled from London Heathrow to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on Saturday night, October 17, but failed to make it onto her next plane to Erbil in Kurdistan, Iraq. According to local media, she was told by airport personnel that she would have to buy a new ticket. She was later found in the washroom by three Russian passengers, again, according to MailOnLine who quotes its source as “local media”. Who is the “local media” who spun this story?

Ms Sutton was the acting Iraq director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

British Journalist Jackie Sutton

British Journalist Jacky Sutton

I state unequivocally that I do not believe Ms. Sutton hanged herself.

I myself am a Kurdish rights activist, researcher, and writer. I myself have had my distressing experiences with Istanbul Ataturk airport police. I have been once locked up in the Istanbul airport without being given a reason, and twice banned from Turkey for my activism and writing, although on each occasion, the Turkish police and immigration authorities refused to state a reason, thus, they are in violation of their own law that requires a reason to issue an entry ban. I am currently appealing my entry ban in Turkey’s highest court.

Secretly, I was told my ban was for my “Kurdish politics” and writing online.

On December 6, 2014, I had my own distressing experience in the Istanbul Ataturk airport. I believe Ms. Sutton had a similar experience which resulted in her death. I do not believe the story that has been planted in the mainstream media that she may have been a target of the Islamic State. Nor do I believe she committed suicide because she was upset over missing her plane. Missing her plane? The Hurriyet Daily news states she hanged herself in the restroom with her shoelaces. Preposterous.

One can always rely on the Hurriyet Daily to report the police version of a story received straight from the police. This is the same newspaper that reported the reason for my entry ban to Turkey was because a secret police report (apparently given to Hurriyet Daily but not to me) was because I “interviewed persons who were known be associated with a terrorist organization”.

If media can white-wash Jacky Sutton’s suspected murder with such outlandish speculations as to hanging herself with her shoelaces because she missed her plane, then I, too, can speculate.

Last December, when I went to the final police check point in Istanbul Ataturk airport to show my Turkish Airlines ticket before going to the departure gate, the police officer delayed me for twenty minutes saying there was a problem in the system. I pleaded to know the reason for stopping me, but he refused to give one.

After the gate was closed for my plane, he directed me to another desk where about five police officers gathered around me. Their behavior can best be described as bullying and threatening me. Like Ms. Sutton, I was indeed distressed and demanded to know why I had been prevented from boarding my plane.

The police stated to me, “You are not in America now where you have rights. You are in Turkey now and you have no rights here. We are Turkish police,” he boasted. “If you don’t act right, we will arrest you and lock you up.” They pushed me away by my arm, and ordered me to go buy a new ticket which I did for $700. I used my credit card with Turkish Airlines who refused to credit me for the missed plane ticket. They told me the same thing they allegedly told Ms. Sutton: the incident was not caused by the airlines.

I refuse to believe the news propaganda that Ms. Sutton, who lived in London and traveled internationally for years, did not have a credit card or debit card with which to purchase a new ticket.

Last December, after I purchased my new ticket, I had to wait in the Visa Violations line for two hours, nearly missing a second flight. When I got to the window and asked the police if there was a problem in the computer with me, he answered, “No, there is no problem. Go board your plane.” There was no explanation for why I had been prevented from boarding my scheduled flight.

A month later, I learned a secret entry ban was placed against me by Sirnak police for overstaying my residence permit which was a blatant lie. Sirnak foreign police had previously warned me to move away from Sirnak.

The readers should know that Sirnak, in southeast Turkey, is the city in which a Kurdish civilian, Haci Birlik, was murdered by over a dozen bullets, then his body dragged through the city behind an armored police vehicle on October 2, 2015. The event was videoed from within the police vehicle then uploaded to the internet.

In the case of Ms. Sutton, I speculate the following scenario is what may have happened: The airport immigration police intentionally made her miss her plane. She protested, the same way I protested last December. They told her to go buy a new ticket and may have told her if she didn’t “behave right” they would arrest her and lock her up. I speculate that they got physical with her, either in public or in a private area. She would probably have struggled. They may have put a strangle-hold on her throat which resulted in her passing out . . . and then dying. Maybe her neck was broken from excessive force.

So then the police would have had a problem: a dead body. The only solution would be to make it look like she hanged herself in the toilet room. Of course, this is just my speculation, like Hurriyet Daily speculating she hanged herself with her shoelaces because she missed her plane.

I refuse to believe this woman committed suicide. I hope there will be international legal and government pressure on Turkey and a public outcry for justice.

I call for the Turkish government to immediately make public the video footage from all of the cameras which would have recorded Jacky Sutton in the airport. (I add for the record that I never, ever intend to commit suicide. I love life even on my worst days.)

For comments from those who knew Ms. Sutton, see:

Dr. Amy L. Beam is a human rights activist, researcher and writer for Kurds and Yazidis in Turkey and Kurdistan Iraq. Follow her on Twitter @amybeam, Facebook amyLbeam, or email her at amybeam@yahoo.com. Read her many other articles at Kurdistan Tribune.

9 Responses to Jacky Sutton, British Journalist: Suspicious Death in Istanbul Airport
  1. Frederike
    October 19, 2015 | 18:17

    How on earth can you publish these wild speculations based on somebody else’s experiences? I can’t believe how utterly distrespectful this is, and how totally non journalistic. If the author wants to share her experiences at Turkey’s airports, fine, but don’t make Jacky Sutton part of it. Oh I freeze when I read this, and I can’t imagine how it makes Jacky’s family, friends and colleagues feel. This shouldn’t be published here for reasons of pure human decency.

    • Any L Beam
      October 20, 2015 | 11:55

      The fact that it was reported that police told Ms. Sutton to go buy a new ticket indicates that the police were involved in some way with her. Otherwise, the police take no interest in a person who misses her flight. It’s not their problem. Why else would the police have told her to buy a new ticket unless they made her miss her flight in the first place? If that is true, then one must ask why the police delayed her. If the next flight to Erbil was not for 24 hours and if she was denied an entry visa into Turkey, then she would have been locked up while she waited. There are many questions that need to be investigated. I am sure her family and friends are grateful for all who raise their voice against foul play and demand an investigation. I am told my story in KT is blocked in Turkey.

    • Amy L Beam
      October 20, 2015 | 15:00

      It is necessary to speculate on the murder of Jacky Sutton to force an investigation and refute the notion that she killed hersef.

      Five weeks before Jacky died, 12 Turkish police officers were charged with “using excessive force leading to the death” of an American passenger in Istanbul airport. An autopsy revealed her death had been caused by continuously applied pressure to her neck and chest. Details, CCTV and photos at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3222562/Twelve-Turkish-police-officers-charged-death-American-tourist-horrifying-struggle-breathe-restrained-caught-camera.html

  2. Saman Shali
    October 20, 2015 | 10:30

    I lost a great friend she been murdered in cool blood? If anyone know Jacky’s character they know she never hang herself.

    Saman Shali

  3. doris whyte
    October 21, 2015 | 12:36

    Thank you for highlighting this problem with airports. Myself and my family also had a horrendous experience with police at the passport control in Greece. It ended alright for us but I am sure that had I been travelling alone, it would have been a very different story. All CCTV footage should be given over and a full investigation into Jacky Sutton’s death carried out. Shocking situation for travellers.

  4. gill mather
    October 21, 2015 | 23:35

    This neds to be investigated urgently – I for one will not be stopping at Istanbul again.
    Hopefully the cctv will not “mysteriously disappear” along with any evidence.

  5. Suhayl Saadi
    October 28, 2015 | 19:23

    Thanks for a fascinating article. The other thing that strikes me as very odd in this whole very strange narrative is that both Sutton’s employer and her family seem to have done a volte face within 24 hours, before any kind of post-mortem/toxicology tests, etc. have been undertaken. They have gone from suggesting that she was murdered to accepting the official Turkish Police account of suicide. There is a different between saying, ‘the authorities appear to be cooperating and we look forward to the outcome of their deliberations’ and the categorical statement that ‘there was no-one else involved’. Video footage easily can be edited and distorted. I’m wondering whether pressure has brought to bear on the family and on the employer. This would suggest that more than just Turkey may be involved in bringing such pressure to bear. That leads one to wonder exactly what Sutton was working on. Had she discovered something, the revelation of which which Turkey/NATO was desperate to prevent? Had she discovered, for example, that Turkey (allegedly) systematically has been facilitating passage and ordnance for variegated paramilitary Jihadists, including ISIS? That would be something which a state would kill a foreign journalist for. It has been allegedly that Turkey has killed its own journalists for this, and for for far less.

  6. Suhayl Saadi
    October 31, 2015 | 08:53

    What if someone was able to produce hard evidence – a smoking gun – of:

    1) Turkey/NATO/Saudi Arabia/Israel allegedly providing Jihadists with chemical weapons for use in Syria?
    2) Turkey/NATO/Saudi Arabia/ Israel allegedly transporting many thousands of Jihadist paramilitaries/militaries into Syria?
    3) Turkey/NATO/Saudi Arabia/Israel allegedly supplying these Johadist forces with massive amounts of ordnance?
    4) Turkey/NATO allegedly pretending to attack ISIS and actually attacking the enemies of ISIS? Israel does not seem even to be pretending. It appears to have admitted that it is supporting the Jihadists, who in turn are assiduous in never, ever attacking Israel.

    What might happen to that person? Just a thought.

    Also, some professional journalists work as spies for one or more sides, while some professional spies work undercover as journalists and aid workers. It has been alleged that many charities and NGOs serve as cover for such activities. This is an angle which does not seem even to have proposed in relation to this case. Yet surely the question ought to be asked, no matter how tasteless it may seem. But that is another ‘thread’.



  7. Amy L Beam
    November 4, 2015 | 19:36

    Here is the link to the CCTV footage of an American tourist who was killed by Turkish police in Istanbul airport in April 2013. (I have not verified this video, but assume it is correct as stated.) Now police have been charged in Turkey with causing her death. https://web.facebook.com/kurdistan.design.flag/videos/1070336059645197/

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