Anguish of Helmut Kohl as His Sick Wife Kills Herself; the Selfless Charity Worker Imprisoned by Illness

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Byline: ALLAN HALL

THE wife of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl has committed suicide in despair over an illness which made her a prisoner in her home.

Hannelore Kohl, 68, who suffered from a rare and severe allergy to daylight, was found at the couple's home in Ludwigshafen, south-western Germany, just days short of their 41st wedding anniversary. Farewell letters were found nearby.

There was speculation that she had overdosed on the painkillers she was taking to ease her suffering.

Her husband, who headed the government for 16 years until 1998, was said to be devastated.

A statement from his office said: 'Due to the hopelessness of her health situation, she decided to end her life. She conveyed this decision in farewell letters to her husband, her sons and friends. She lived without daylight for the last 15 months of her life.' Mrs Kohl's body was discovered by a chauffeur.

Her husband, who at 71 still sits in parliament, rushed home from Berlin when the news was broken to him.

Helmut and Hannelore met in 1948 and married 12 years later. It is said he wooed her with 2,000 love letters which she kept in a box in her bedroom.

Their love affair was forged amid the terrible privations of post-war Germany. She once said: 'I was so lucky to find him in this terrible time. He was as strong as a mountain, someone who protected me.

Helmut is a man for leaning on. I have remained devoted to him throughout my life.' A doctor of medicine, and a translator fluent in French and English, Mrs Kohl gave up her work to devote herself to being a professional political wife for the conservative chancellor.

One of her foremost goals was keeping the couple's two sons out of the public spotlight as Kohl rose through the political ranks.

Hannelore, slim, blonde and elegant, was a fixture at his side throughout the dramatic events following the fall of the Berlin Wall when he oversaw the reunification of the two Germanys. …