A former Crown prosecutor has died suddenly from a "very rare" blood clot just three weeks after giving birth to her son.

Anna Ruth MacGougan, 33, died in Christchurch Hospital last Saturday after suffering a series of strokes over several days, after a blood clot moved to her brain.

It is understood she underwent emergency surgery to relieve pressure, but the procedure was unsuccessful and she died.

It is thought the clot was linked to Ms MacGougan giving birth to Tom, a brother for her toddler Eddie.


Her husband, Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Murton, is not ready to speak publicly about her death.

A family notice said Ms MacGougan was an "adored wife" and "much loved mother" to the couple's children, and to Mr Murton's three children from his previous marriage, Laura, Sophie and William.

"I will love you forever, my darling," Mr Murton said in the notice.

Auckland haematologist and obstetric physician Dr Claire McLintock said strokes and blood clots were a "very uncommon cause of maternal death".

She estimated about one in 100,000 women would suffer such post-delivery complications, with about 20 per cent of those dying.

The most common clot was a venous thrombosis, which formed within a vein, usually the leg.

"But even they are relatively rare and will occur in between one and a 1000 or 1500 women."

Dr McLintock said clots could also form in arteries that supplied blood to the brain, or outside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system.

"Either of those would cause a classical stroke. Most clots come completely out of the blue. You are very, very unlikely to have warning signs."

Canterbury District Health Board chief medical officer Nigel Millar described Ms MacGougan's death as "a rare and tragic event" but would not comment on the specifics.

It is understood that because the death was unexpected, an investigation was under way as per Canterbury DHB policy.

Ms MacGougan is a former prosecutor for Crown solicitors Raymond Donnelly and Co.

Crown Solicitor Brent Stanaway said she was "an able and skilful advocate beyond her years".

"Anna ... had genuine appeal to juries because of her obvious sense of fair play coupled with a steely resolve," he said. "She was very well regarded by her colleagues and the judiciary and recognised as a lawyer with a real future in the law.

"She was a vivacious, athletic and adventurous person who made friends easily and was great fun in the office," Mr Stanaway said.

"Anna's untimely death has greatly affected all those in the firm who worked with her and we cannot believe someone so talented and with so much to offer her family, the profession and the community is gone."

In mid-2011, Ms MacGougan began working with the police as a legal contractor, based in the Christchurch police legal services office.

"Anna applied her analytical skills, sound judgment and extensive experience and knowledge of the law and criminal procedure to her work," said Anna Tutton, police legal services manager for the lower North and South Island.

"She was an exceptionally able lawyer with great potential."

Ms MacGougan's personal attributes also made her popular with police staff, Ms Tutton said.

"She was a friend of many, as well as a colleague, and always ready to help. Her sharp wit and keen, dry sense of humour entertained her workmates and friends.

"Anna was also a compassionate and caring person, with a wisdom well beyond her years. She brought a special vitality and joy to those who knew her."

Ms MacGougan grew up on the West Coast and shared a very close bond with her older sister Helen, who wrote on her public Facebook page: "It is an utter tragedy that I lost my dear sister ... Greg lost his beautiful wife, wee Eddie and Tom lost their amazing mother."

She said her sister was a gorgeous, courageous, determined, intelligent, fun-loving and adventurous woman.

Friend Robyn Millar wrote that Ms MacGougan was "one of the most gorgeous people I have had the pleasure to know. She packed more into her life than most of us could even imagine. A true adventurer ..."

Kate Anderson wrote: "The world will not be the same without you. My heart breaks for your darling boys, who will never really know how awesome their mum was.

"May your sparkly eyes, gorgeous smile, infectious giggle and big heart live on in them."

If in doubt, don't hesitate

Obstetrics physician Dr Claire McLintock says the vast majority of women will get through pregnancy with no complications whatsoever. But unusual things can happen when you're pregnant.

"If you're short of breath, if you collapse, if you lose sensation down one side, or vision, anything you're unsure of, just get in touch with your maternity carer - your midwife or your doctor," she says.

"A lot of things women worry about would be nothing, but it's better to get something checked than to wait."