My Brilliant, Life-Affirming Friend -- and a Horrifyingly Cruel Death; A Heartbreaking Tribute to the Society Jeweller Who Plunged from a Roof Last Week after Cosmetic Surgery

Daily Mail (London), February 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

My Brilliant, Life-Affirming Friend -- and a Horrifyingly Cruel Death; A Heartbreaking Tribute to the Society Jeweller Who Plunged from a Roof Last Week after Cosmetic Surgery


Byline: Rosa Monckton

SOME people fill the space around them with a kind of life force, and my friend Sandra d'Auriol was just such a person. I could hardly believe it when I received an email from her family, telling me of her violent death, plummeting from the roof of a 15-storey building in Beverly Hills, on the morning of January 22.

Sandra had gone to Los Angeles to have a straightforward cosmetic surgery operation in a renowned Beverly Hills clinic. The operation lasted 13 hours, after which she was removed to a recovery room under 24-hour nursing supervision.

A few hours later she came round in a state of panic and paranoia, which the doctors described as post-anaesthetic psychosis. This apparently happens in around 2 per cent of such procedures.

She overpowered the nurse, stripped off her clothes and ran towards the first exit.

Sandra made her way to the roof, where she stayed for over three hours, alternately sitting and teetering along the edge. A team of doctors talked to her, but she failed to respond to them, and remained completely silent. Eventually she stood up, and leapt off the building to her death.

Even as I write this, I cannot imagine a more horrible, frightening and awful way to die.

In every article I have read about Sandra this week, she has been written of -- or off -- as a 'socialite'. She was so much more than that.

I first met Sandra in the early Eighties, when I was running the marketing department at Asprey, the jewellers, in Bond Street. She was 19, and the youngest person in my team.

She already had a poise about her, and a self-assurance and serenity that was older than her years. Five of us shared an office tucked away in the Dickensian labyrinth of the Asprey building.

Sandra's innate sense of design was apparent in everything that she did, from the layout of the catalogues to how a window display was arranged. She always had an opinion, quietly but emphatically stated, and invariably right.

She was always immaculately groomed, and I can still see her -- vividly -- striding down Bond Street on her endlessly long legs, with a clipboard and pen, taking notes on the window displays, then making seemingly minute alterations which immediately made an enormous difference.

Sandra worked with me at Asprey for three years, but was becoming increasingly frustrated at having no direct outlet for her evident and growing jewellery-design talents.

ONE day, I remember bringing to the office an amber necklace given to me by my step grandmother.

Three weeks later, this previously old-lady necklace was transformed into a bohemian chain, with additions of carved golden beads and black glass. Last March, when Sandra was in London, I wore it when we met for lunch. 'Not bad,' she said of it, 'not bad at all.' In 1983 Sandra had an opportunity to go to Hong Kong. At the time she was in a relation-ship that had run its course, but she didn't quite have the courage to admit it.

Day after day she would appear bleakly in the office, unable to decide what to do with her life. Finally I took her out to lunch, and said that I was going to make the decision for her. I told her that if she didn't take the opportunity to go to Hong Kong, I would fire her.

In an email to me last year, she mentioned this: 'How right you were to push me out of the door of England all those years ago never looked back though I do sometimes ache for the English countryside, especially old trees and dank earth.'

She quickly established herself in Hong Kong, and eventually met and married Frenchman Yan d'Auriol, a former L'Oreal executive, with whom she had three children. Her creative energy went into designing unusual one-off pieces of jewellery, oriental in style, using carved jade, semi-precious stones and beaten silver. She became highly successful, (as I knew she would be) and organized exhibitions all over the world.

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My Brilliant, Life-Affirming Friend -- and a Horrifyingly Cruel Death; A Heartbreaking Tribute to the Society Jeweller Who Plunged from a Roof Last Week after Cosmetic Surgery
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