BBC executive took own life - inquest

THE husband of a BBC executive who drowned off the coast of Felixstowe has spoken of the severe stress she suffered at work in the months leading up to her death.

A SENIOR BBC executive committed suicide off the Felixstowe coast after feeling “isolated and under-supported” in her job, an inquest has heard.

Kari Boto, 53, of Park Road, Ipswich, was found immersed in the sea on June 27 last year - three days before her BBC contract had been due to expire.

The inquest into her death, held at Ipswich Crown Court today, heard Mrs Boto, who had served in the corporation for 30 years, had suffered high levels of stress and anxiety after being head-hunted into a new role as a Director of Information at the BBC World Service Trust, which she took up in October 2006.

Tom Boto, her husband of 26 years, told the inquest his wife was “crying for help but no one at the BBC would listen”.

Mr Boto, a consultant at Ipswich Hospital, who moved to the town with his wife in 1992, said: “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.

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“She was crying for help but no one at the BBC would listen to her problems.”

He said she couldn't sleep for worry, lost her competency and decision-making abilities and in March 2007 she got to the point where she would often refuse to get out of the car when he took her to catch the train for work.

The inquest heard Mrs Boto, a mother-of-three, tried to communicate her feelings of anxiety and depression in the job to the Director of the World Service Trust, Stephen King.

But his email to the occupational health team at the BBC was sent to the wrong address and nothing more was done about it.

Mrs Boto told him on March 5 last year of her intention to resign - a decision she later tried to reverse but Mr Boto said she was told “we have crossed the waters and there is no turning back”.

Rachel Currie, the human resources director of the journalism group of the BBC, told the court it had been the third time she had tried to resign and bosses were unable to conclude her state of mind meant she was not able to make the decision. A letter she received subsequently said her 30-year BBC career would end on June 30.

After conducting the report that followed Mrs Boto's death she said it was “regrettable” the occupational health referral did not take place as it could have put them in touch with her GP, who had been prescribing her medication for her problems.

Kevin Burden, head of training at the BBC World Service Trust, told the inquest he witnessed Mrs Boto being “marginalised and demonised by the management”.

At this point, his evidence was halted by Greater Suffolk coroner Peter Dean, who said his comments were “not relevant” to the hearing.

But Mr Burden continued: “I believe this is fully supported by the evidence and something I have experience of myself.”

Mr Burden then said he had taken up his concerns about the treatment given to Mrs Boto with senior management.

“The director of the world service said to me she was a failure and there was no place for failures at the BBC.”

Barry Langridge, a retired senior manager who worked closely with Mrs Boto at the BBC, said: “In all my years, I have never seen a more obvious case of someone having a breakdown.”

Mrs Boto, whose final day at work in London was June 7 last year, was seen by dog walkers sitting on steps at Felixstowe promenade, looking upset and with her head in her hands, shortly before her body was recovered from the sea.

Witnesses said the alarm was raised after a pile of neatly folded clothes were found along with keys to Mrs Boto's Volkswagen Golf at Brackenbury Cliffs.

PC Peter Stewart said he found notes in Mrs Boto's car that she had written to relatives. These were not read out at the hearing.

A post mortem examination carried out by Dr Jason Wong, a consultant pathologist at Ipswich Hospital revealed Mrs Boto, a governor at Ipswich School, had died from drowning.

A toxicology report showed she had not consumed any alcohol or drugs and her husband said she was a “very strong and accomplished swimmer”.

In recording a suicide verdict, Dr Dean said it was apparent Mrs Boto's health had deteriorated after taking up her role with the BBC World Service Trust.

He concluded she was able to shield how bad her state of mind had become at work through what amounted to “a mask”.

He said: “In October 2006, with a change of position, the situation became very difficult for her and we heard of the practical problems that then developed from that period of time onwards.

“There were clearly difficult situations on the work front but there were also significant affects of the problems at work on her state of mind and her own sense of psychological condition at that time.

“It's apparent, and strikingly apparent, that she was somebody who, despite her undoubted ability, was clearly very badly affected psychologically by what was happening at that particular time.”

He said there was no evidence being referred to occupational health workers would have helped Mrs Boto.

He added there was evidence Mrs Boto understood the “consequences” of her actions from the notes she left loved ones.

“The only appropriate conclusion is a verdict that she took her own life,” said Dr Dean.

After the hearing, Mr Boto said: “The question will always remain - even if the BBC did everything correct in terms of procedure, is there something else more that they could've done?

“I need to sit down with my family and get some legal view on it. I do not want to prejudge anything else.”

A BBC spokesman said: “We note the judgment. Kari was a very popular leader with great humanity and compassion. She was devoted to the BBC.

“Her tragic death saddened and deeply affected all staff, past and present, who have worked with her over nearly 30 years.

“Her family remain very much in our thoughts.”

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