Tragic Cambridge professor John Tiley plunged to his death from the roof of the faculty building he regarded as ‘his baby’, his widow said yesterday.
The 72 year-old don, one of Britain’s top tax law experts, was found dead on the ground outside his office on Sunday evening after a family day with his wife Jillinda.
Mrs Tiley, 70, who also teaches law at Cambridge, said she had no idea why her eminent husband apparently took his own life.
She said he gave no indication of anything being wrong as he left their home on Sunday evening, saying he was going to a rehearsal for a village play in a local church.
But instead he got onto the roof of the law faculty building and fell and his body was found around 6.45pm.
Police broke the news of his death to Mrs. Tiley later the same evening – four days before their 49th wedding anniversary.
Mrs Tiley, who had three children and six grandchildren with her husband, said: “I’m just in total shock.
“I just have absolutely no idea what brought this on. It’s just beggars belief.
“He was a scholar. He loved his students, he loved his work, he loved his family and his grandchildren.
“He was a wonderful husband and a wonderful father. There was never a dull moment with him.
“He was the dean of faculty when that new building was put up. It is somewhat perverse that is where he should go to have his problem – it is ironic that he should do it there.
“He was almost responsible for the building and I went with him crawling through the scaffolding and talking to the architect about the building.
“It was his baby. He had an office there and he enjoyed working there because he had an enormous amount of books and papers that he kept there.”
Prof Tiley was awarded the CBE and was a qualified QC and his wife added: “We’ve had 49 very full and happy years together with a lot of travelling and a lot of excitement.
“We had lots of plans for the next year.
“He was supposed to be going to New Zealand next summer and then we were going to stop off at the Cook Islands on the way home.
“We were supposed to be going to Howton Hall to see the artwork for our anniversary this week.
“We’ve been speculating as to whether he has a stroke or had found out about some medical problem.
“There’s been no indication as to why he did it. No indication whatsoever that he was troubled or anxious.
“He had been to church in the morning and spent the afternoon having a family day.
“They are going to do a post mortem today so we might possibly find out whether he had some medical news or something.”
Mrs Tiley revealed that her husband was due to publish his latest book on tax law.
She has been a member of Lucy Cavenish College since 1975 and works as a supervisor in Civil and Roman Law.
Gary Richards, Chairman of The Law Society’s Tax Law Committee, said: “Professor Tiley’s sudden passing is a great loss to the profession.”
“He made an enormous contribution to the tax law community over many years and was regarded as a leading tax academic.”
Cambridge University said: “Prof John Tiley, life fellow of Queens’ College and former chairman of the law faculty, died unexpectedly and tragically in the law faculty building on Sunday night.
“Police are not treating the death as suspicious. Details have been passed to the coroner.
“The university extends deepest sympathy to his widow and children.”
Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious and has been handed to the coroner.