In the final years before her premature drug-related death in May, Eva Rausing led the life of a recluse. Trapped with her husband in the private hell of their crippling addiction, too consumed to venture far beyond the gilded cage of their £70 million Chelsea home, hers must have been an isolated, lonely existence.
However, there was one extraordinary friendship that Eva maintained until shortly before her death – during which the billionairess laid bare her innermost thoughts to a notorious jailed killer.
Steep descent: Eva Rausing on an evening out before her drug addiction tightened its grip
Today we reveal the four-year correspondence that took place between Eva and a murderer called Johnnie Allan who wrote to her from Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire, where he is serving a life sentence.
In the cache of letters, Eva made the remarkable allegations that a well-known businessman had paid for the assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme in 1986, and that she feared somebody would murder her.
She revealed her suspicions to Allan three months before sending emails containing the same dramatic claims to a Swedish journalist, details of which emerged last week.
The strikingly candid, deeply emotional letters also reveal her torment during the final months of her life as, ravaged by drugs, she grew increasingly paranoid and deluded.
Tragically, they also show flashes of the naive, almost childlike kindness that made Eva so popular in London society prior to her desperate descent.
Several of Allan’s letters were found by police among Eva’s papers after her death. He believes she was murdered, and on July 11, two days after her body was discovered on July 9, wrote to investigators offering to provide her letters as evidence.
Two weeks ago, he also wrote to Dr Shirley Radcliffe, the coroner overseeing the inquest, which will take place in October.
Happier times: Eva and her husband Hans Kristian Rausing who was convicted following his failure to inform the authorities of her death
He has not been interviewed, and last week DCI Charles King, who led the Scotland Yard investigation, confirmed he was aware of Allan’s claims about Eva’s death but said he believed there was no evidence to substantiate them.
However, authorities in Sweden are taking seriously Eva’s allegations regarding the killing of Olof Palme, and now want to question an unidentified man in Britain who she claimed was the source of her information.
Eva, 48, had been dead for eight weeks before her decomposing body was found at her home last month, and her husband, Tetra Pak food packaging billionaire Hans Rausing Jr, was given a ten-month suspended custodial sentence after admitting he denied her ‘a decent and lawful burial’.
Confidant: Johnnie Allan, the prisoner who corresponded with Eva
Police found no evidence of the involvement of a third party in her death, which was ruled to have been the result of heart failure coupled with the effect of drugs.
The Rausings were long-term, co-dependent addicts who met 25 years ago in rehab and had four children together. Their decline began to steepen in 2007. The following year, Eva received her first letter from 50-year-old Allan. He he was convicted in 1997 of an £8 million drugs conspiracy and in 2003 was also convicted of the murder of his co-defendant in the drugs case.
Allan claims he had been training in prison to become a drugs counsellor, and wrote to Eva after hearing of her battle with addiction.
It was the start of a friendship conducted through dozens of letters, the last of which she sent to him four months before her death.
In a letter from Long Lartin, Allan wrote: ‘I was curious to unravel what the root cause of her substance abuse was and had a desire to help. However, it is difficult to be an effective counsellor through letters, but instead we developed a deep friendship.’
He added: ‘The very fact I actually listened and believed her meant absolutely everything to her.’ As far-fetched as it sounds, the claim appears to be true. Eva appears to have seen strong parallels between the prisoner’s pathetic situation and her own, viewing them both as imprisoned and powerless, and she seized the opportunity to talk to somebody outside the social circle from which she had excluded herself.
In October 2008, Allan received the first of many replies. ‘It feels a little bit like fate that I got your letter because I am somewhat chaotic at the moment and have a pile of letters which sit unopened, but somehow yours dropped on the floor,’
Eva wrote. ‘I am very isolated at the moment and it is unusual for me to communicate with anyone except for Hans, so I surprise myself by writing to you.’
In that first letter she expressed sympathy for his claim he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice, although she added: ‘I am very preoccupied with my own horrible situation.’
Prison penpal: For four years Johnnie Allan received and sent letters from his cell at Long Lartin jail
Some of her questions to him – ‘Do you have to wear a uniform? What’s it like?’ – reveal an unworldliness that betrayed the chasm between her own background and his.
Yet, poignantly, she also wrote of her envy of him, because: ‘You are part of a group, even if it is not a group of your choosing. You still “belong”.
‘There are two things that are necessary to be happy: one is to belong, and the other is to be recognised.’
It was the absence of a true sense of purpose from her life which she felt most painfully, even though she was a generous philanthropist who gave millions to fund drug rehabilitation centres in Britain and Barbados.
Her refusal to acknowledge her addiction, even to a stranger, is one of the most strikingly sad elements of her letters, which she would often begin one day, then abandon and finally complete months later.
A downward spiral: Eva as a teenager and having a joyous time at a party in 2003
‘I do not use “drugs” in the sense that I do not need to use illegal drugs,’ she insisted in a letter from 2009, which was written from the five-star Beverly Hills Hotel in Hollywood. ‘I have well-respected legitimate medical doctors who provide all sorts of “medications”. Medications, I emphasise, NOT drugs.’
By that stage she had already almost died once from her addiction, developing a heart infection in 2006 which resulted in her having a pacemaker fitted. Yet her deluded assertions that she was taking only prescribed drugs continued.
Her longing to be loved is evident from the letters, as is a sense of her trying desperately to cling on to the life she knew was slipping away.
She appears to have grown increasingly dependent on the contact with Allan, who sent her many more letters than she sent back.
It is indicative of the depths of her depression that, in one letter, she admitted that, although she had not opened several of his, the very fact that he was taking the time to write to her provided a rare bright spot in her existence.
‘I swear I can feel your thoughts and I am very grateful because as time goes by it gets harder and harder to keep going, and I think that your positive thoughts have been one of the few things that have somehow kept me going,’ she said.
In another letter, sent on March 1 last year, she wrote, heartbreakingly, of her terrible loneliness. ‘You are the only person I talk to – I have not even spoken to my sister in more than a year and I love her very much. I just seem to be retreating from everyone, and deep down I don’t want to be here.
Destroyed: The couple spiralled into drug abuse after allowing themselves champagne on New Year,s Eve 1999
It was in the same message that she confided her wild and rambling allegations about the assassination of the Swedish prime minister, whose shooting has never been solved. ‘I’ve found out the most terrible thing and I’m going to tell you the absolute truth,’ she wrote. She claimed the perpetrator was a man whose business was threatened by Palme, and that, bizarrely, the knowledge had been passed to her via a ‘mind wave’.
‘One morning, I woke up and looked over at my husband, who was still asleep, and I swear, the thought came to me loud and clear,’ she said, describing the moment she felt she had learned the truth about who ‘paid for the assassination’.
In her paranoid, drug-ravaged state, she was clearly terrified about what her ‘knowledge’ might mean, and wrote of her fear that she could be murdered to keep her quiet, although she admitted she had no evidence for her claims.
‘I’m scared!’ she wrote. ‘What I think that they could do is come into the house, gas me with some sort of sleeping gas, then they could deliberately give me an overdose of some drug or other and then, worst of all, they leave a note in what looks like my handwriting.
‘Help! I know this sounds very far-fetched and completely paranoid but I swear to you these people are capable of anything.’
Although there is no evidence to suggest Eva’s death was anything other than a tragic accident, Allan is convinced her vision was proved correct.
‘I believe wholeheartedly that Eva suffered injustice during her life and now subsequently,’ he commented.
He has written to the coroner to ask for a review of the circumstances of her death and an investigation into what he calls her ‘cry from the grave’ letters.
Like Eva, Allan seems gripped by paranoia, claiming: ‘I’ve actually been warned that my life would be in serious jeopardy if I dared present and expose what Eva has revealed.’ He claims that her final letter to him, written in January this year, just months before her death, reveals the fact that she was finally beginning to put her problems behind her – evidence she would not have taken an overdose.
In fact, it is, in many ways, the most poignant letter of all, demonstrating the fact that she was finally hopeful about the future.
‘I have decided to go to treatment!’ she wrote. ‘Part of me is so pleased and happy to be taking steps at long last to start to free myself from this horrible, horrible prison that I am locked into.’
She did go to rehab in California, but returned just before her death because she was concerned about her husband, who had become totally dependent on her. It is a tragic irony that the optimism she expressed to Allan, the murderer who had become her main confidant, came too late to save her.
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