Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 19:25 UK

BBC editor's death 'was suicide'

Kari Blackburn
The BBC said Kari Blackburn was a 'popular leader'

The coroner at the inquest into the death of former BBC World Service Africa editor Kari Blackburn has recorded a verdict of suicide.

The inquest, presided over by Great Suffolk Coroner Peter Dean, heard Ms Blackburn had felt "isolated" and died swimming in the sea near her UK home.

The BBC said she was a popular leader whose tragic death saddened staff.

Ms Blackburn, 53, was married to a Ugandan consultant gynaecologist, Tom Boto, and they had three children.

The inquest heard that Ms Blackburn felt under supported and "isolated" at work, which caused her stress and anxiety.

She felt isolated and under-supported - she became very anxious about her job

Tom Boto

On 27 June last year, her body was found in the sea near her home in Felixstowe just three days before her BBC contract was due to expire.

Her husband told the inquest, held at Ipswich Crown Court, that his wife had suffered from "mental and physical illness" after she took on her role as a director with the BBC World Trust in October 2006.

Mr Boto, her husband of 26 years, said this illness resulted in her telling a senior manager of her intention to resign, although she later attempted to reverse this decision.

He said bosses at the corporation encouraged her to stick to her original plan and she was later told her employment would end on 30 June.

Mr Boto told the inquest: "She felt the job was impossible to do. She felt there was a lack of basic infrastructure and a lack of management support.

"She felt isolated and under-supported. She became very anxious about her job. She was worried about failure and could not see any way to make it a success."

The consultant gynaecologist said his wife "was crying for help but no one at the BBC would listen".

Wrong email address

The inquest was also told that Ms Blackburn's line manager attempted to get her help after she was offered counselling for her problems which she did not find helpful.

However, her manager sent an email to the wrong address and his request was never acted on.

Ms Blackburn taught in a Tanzanian primary school before joining the BBC in 1977.

She went on to head the BBC Swahili and Great Lakes Service.

In a statement, the BBC said: "We note the judgement. Kari was a very popular leader, with great humanity and compassion. She was devoted to the BBC.

"Her tragic death saddened and deeply upset all staff, past and present, who have worked with her over nearly 30 years at the BBC. Her family remain very much in our thoughts."


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