Benzodiazepines  Suicide

Sleeping pill clue to Douglas Hurd daughter-in-law's fatal fall: Mother-of-five may have plunged 60ft from New York flat because of sedatives

By Emily Andrews

PUBLISHED: 13:54, 14 November 2012 | UPDATED: 13:23, 15 November 2012

The daughter-in-law of former Conservative foreign secretary Douglas Hurd may have plunged 60ft from the roof of her New York home because of sleeping pills she was taking.

In the days before her death, Sian Hurd, 46, had told her diplomat husband Tom she was having trouble getting to sleep and so took some benzodiazepine sedatives.

At her inquest yesterday her father Roland, a retired GP, said they could have altered her mental state as the drugs ‘exacerbate morbid ideas’.

Wedding of Thomas Hurd, son of Douglas Hurd, who is back right, and Sian Aubrey in 1994

Tragic: Catherine Hurd, centre, pictured on her wedding day to husband Thomas, died after plunging 60ft from her New York home

The house which Catherine Hurd fell from

Home: The four-storey house in the fashionable Upper East Side of New York where the Briton died on May 21 last year

The mother of five had previously tried to take an overdose of sedatives in 2007 and suffered a ‘sudden nervous breakdown’ but had  recovered well and was not being treated for depression at the time of her death.

Mr Hurd wept as he described finding his wife’s body in the garden of their house, just a short distance from where he worked at the United Nations.

He had woken at 4am, but finding her missing from the bed, searched their home in the fashionable Upper East side. She had climbed up a ladder in the corner of the bedroom to gain access to the flat roof through a hatch, before plunging over a wall. She died from multiple injuries on May 21 last year.

Sadness: Thomas Hurd arriving at the inquest today, left,
Sadness: Thomas Hurd arriving at the inquest today, left, and her father Daniel Aubrey, right

Sadness: Thomas Hurd arriving at the inquest today, left, and her father Daniel Aubrey, right

Lord Douglas Hurd whose daughter-in-law has died

Lord Douglas Hurd whose daughter-in-law died (file picture)

Central Hampshire Coroner Grahame Short told the hearing in Winchester the fall was ‘more than likely an intentional act’ but he recorded an open verdict.

The inquest heard the family was  due to move back to their house in Battersea, South-West London, and Mrs Hurd had been packing belongings from their £9,500-a-month rented house with three of her children – Benedict, 15, Oliver, ten and seven-year-old Hannah.

Mr Hurd, a Middle East expert with the UN Security Council, said: ‘She was looking forward to returning home. We were going through a period of transition logistically and we were also confronted by some family illness.’

He said the day before her death, his wife had trouble sleeping and had taken small doses of sedatives.

Asked by Mr Short if he could  tell whether she had jumped or fallen, Mr Hurd replied: ‘We will never know.’

Her father Roland Aubrey told the inquest: ‘There were no warning signs in the way she spoke to us that would indicate she was depressed.

She had been taking some medication to help her  sleep and it was the type of drug that can exacerbate morbid ideas. It can affect the mental balance of your mind.’

Friends of Mrs Hurd described her as a ‘free’ spirit’ who loved nature.

Recording his verdict, Mr Short said: ‘I cannot know for sure what was on her mind … She was probably feeling depressed, it does not necessarily follow she jumped.’

Douglas Hurd, 82, now Lord Hurd of Westwell, married twice. He had three children – including second son Tom – with his first wife, Tatiana. But they separated in 1976. In 1982 he married Judy Smart and they had two children. She died in 2008 after battling cancer.