The millionaire CEO who died in a New Year's Eve seaplane crash near Sydney with his two sons, new fiancee and her 11-year-old daughter lost his first wife to cancer less than three years ago, MailOnline can reveal today.
Caroline Cousins urged Compass catering boss Richard Cousins, 58, to 'find someone new' before she died aged 55, just six weeks after being diagnosed with a virulent strain of the disease.
Today police revealed that Mr Cousins, his 48-year-old wife-to-be Emma Bowden and her young daughter Heather perished in an air accident in the Hawkesbury River, New South Wales, on Sunday.
His sons Ed, 23, and Will, 25, were also killed along with experience pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, when the plane crashed into the water and sank yesterday.
Caroline's brother Ian Thorpe, from Leicestershire, revealed his brother-in-law was a 'very loving' family man who 'made my sister very happy until the day she died'.
He said: 'He was a great guy – but there was a toughness. He knew where he was going and he achieved it. I'm proud that he did. He bought me my house so I could have some security. That was the kind of guy he was'.
Their uncle said Ed and Will were 'fabulous boys' who were 'brought up in the right way' and would 'talk to you about anything'.
He said: 'Caroline never had a daughter. When I went down to visit with my daughter the boys were fantastic with her. They were so kind. And that to me was their most outstanding thing. Their kindness and their generosity. It was that I liked about them most. They were wonderful fellas. I'm struggling four hours down the line that they are not with us anymore'.
Emma Bowden and her young daughter Heather (pictured together) died in the accident in the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, on Sunday
A British holidaymaker who flew in the doomed Sydney seaplane just four hours before the crash took what is believed to be the last photograph of pilot Gareth Morgan alive (pictured)
The body of a passenger recovered from the downed seaplane that crashed on Sunday killing six people is carried by police and paramedics
The crash happened when group were in Australia on a family holiday but died flying back from lunch at Cottage Point to Sydney Harbour ahead of the world famous New Year's Eve fireworks display. It is understood the cricket mad boys were in the country to see some Ashes cricket'.
A neighbour at Mr Cousins' £1.7million country home in the Chilterns, which he shared with first wife Caroline until her death, told MailOnline: 'She had told him to find somebody else. The family had gone through the dreadful loss of Caroline. He was getting his life back together and we heard this dreadful news.'
Richard and Emma were due to marry in June and had been living together with Heather in Tooting, south-west London, where neighbours described them as a 'happy go lucky' couple looking forward to their 2018 wedding.
Lata Maisuria, who lives two doors away from the family's terraced house, said: 'It was a holiday, you're expecting them to come back, you're not expecting them to be brought back in this way'.
Mr Cousins has been chief executive of British catering giant Compass since 2006 and was named number 11 in the world's 100 best performing CEOs this year by Harvard Business Review after turning a £1.6billion profit.
Experts have said he was 'the greatest businessmen of his generation'.
John Capper, the President of Hyde Heath cricket club, said Mr Cousins retained a close connection with the village where he lived with his first wife and its cricket team where he had played.
He has not sold the family home but has chosen not to live there.
His son Will, who lived in London and worked , returned to play for the club. His youngest son Ed was due to join the police.
Mr Capper said: 'It is a terrible shock. The whole village is in mourning.
'Richard was a great supporter of the cricket club and Will played for us. We will all be raising a glass to them.
'We will miss them hugely. We can't believe what has happened.'
Will worked as a political adviser to the Labour Party and Edward was going to join the police.
Another neighbour Christine Franklin, 78, said: 'They were a lovely family and lovely neighbours. I remember Caroline very well she was always very friendly and would stop and have a chat.
'She died very young. It must have been over two years ago.. It was a great shame.
'I will always remember the boys coming by on their bikes.'
She said that although Richard had moved away, he had not sold the large 5 bed detached family home, which had been on the market for £1.7 million.
Compass Group CEO Richard Cousins, 58, from Leeds, his London-based magazine editor fiancée Emma Bowden, 48, Emma's 11-year-old daughter Heather Bowden and Richard's sons Edward Cousins, 23, and 25-year-old William Cousins were all killed in the accident.
Witness Myles Baptiste said he saw the plane crash, said 'It made a tight right-hand turn and as it actually turned around, the wings dipped and it nosedived straight into the water.'
The route the seaplane took is a popular choice for tourists who want to experience Sydney's beauty from the air.
Those who have enjoyed the same flight include Kate Middleton's sister Pippa on her honeymoon with James Matthews and Grand Tour host Jeremy Clarkson.
Other A-listers to take to the skies over scenic New South Wales with the company Sydney Seaplanes include Ed Sheeran, Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates.
Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. chose the sea planes to travel around Sydney earlier this month to film commercials for a phone company.
It appears that Mr Cousins, a hugely respected businessman, had been planning to change his life and perhaps spend more time with his family as he quit his job this year.
He was living with his fiancee Emma in Tooting, south-west London.
Lisa Byrne described Ms Bowden - her friend and former colleague at OK! Magazine - as the 'Grace Kelly' of the office.
Mrs Byrne, 47, the former editor-in-chief, told the Press Association: 'She quite regal, very serene, and very well educated.
'My first impressions of her were that she was lovely - a very kind person.
'She was such a wonderful, calming influence in the office, and I never heard her grumble.
'Her absolute main priority was her daughter Heather.
'My heart just goes out to their families and their loved ones - this (the crash) has just been awful. I'm just utterly devastated really.'
Ms Bowden was OK!'s arts editor and had been with the magazine for almost 15 years.
Kirsty Tyler, OK! Magazine's editor said: 'All the staff at OK! Magazine are deeply shocked and saddened to hear about this terrible tragedy. We would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy to all Emma's family and friends.
'Emma was a popular and long-standing member of staff at OK! Magazine and she will be greatly missed by us all.'
Neighbours of the couple in Tooting, south west London, described their shock on Monday morning.
Heather had started at nearby Graveney School in September where she had begun to make new friends.
Neighbour Lata Maisuria, who lives two doors away from the family's terraced house, said: 'They were happy go lucky people just like us.
'They had a day to day routine, the daughter had just started school and she seemed happy, because we asked her a couple of times how she liked it and she seemed to fit in nicely at the school, and seemed to be very happy.
'She really wanted to go to that school and she was looking forward to it.'
She added: 'Mum and dad were always busy with life.
'They were busy with the little one and she was running backwards and forwards doing whatever she was doing. She had friends but nobody that I know because I said 'when you got to school you will find lots of different friends'.
'This is a tight community here, we all look after each other. We have been busy for Christmas and they were doing their Christmas things and we would just say hello when they were out.
'This is a family street, we're in and out of each other's pockets most of the time and if anything happens we're there for them and they're there for us.'
Richard Cousins' first wife Caroline was a popular teacher, pictured in a photograph published by family after her death in August 2015
Heather Bowden smiles in a beach photo taken by her mother Emma on a British beach in May 2015
The family had flown from Rose Bay near Sydney harbour to Cottage Point for lunch in an exclusive restaurant. The the plane then crashed shortly after starting their return journey back to Sydney for the evening fireworks
Lata described how Mr Cousin's devastated brother visited the house with another relative yesterday to gather some things.
The family are thought to have been renting the house for about a year.
Lata said: 'We had a phone call from the people who own the house.
'They said the family were coming to get paperwork or whatever.
'When the family came we went out to greet them and give our condolences.
'There were a couple of them, one was the guy's brother. They are distraught, anybody would be.
'We gave them a cup of tea and helped them calm down.'
Another neighbour, 31, who didn't give her name, said: 'They were nice people and, like any neighbours, they said 'hello' and 'good morning' and gave each other Christmas cards.
'We're all very shocked and sad to hear it.'
Terry Spry, 71, said the family were 'lovely, charming' people. Another neighbour said they 'seemed very nice people'.
'When he saw us, every time he'd say hello and talk with us,' she said.
She added that Ms Bowden was a 'very nice lady'.
Another neighbour who didn't know the family said he would often see Mr Cousins picked up from the house in a chauffeur-driven car.
Neighbours at her former address told how her ex-husband Alex would still visit regularly to pick up Heather after the couple separated.
Elizabeth Pullen, who lives on Fairlight Road in Tooting, said: 'She was nice and a good neighbour, and then she moved. 'It was a bit weird the way she moved, we have been here five or six years and she was here all that time. She was there with a husband before they got divorced. 'He used to come and pick her daughter up and take her on weekends. 'It was just before last Christmas they moved.'
Mr Cousins was named at No 11 on last year's 100 Best Performing CEOs in the World by Harvard Business Review
The six people including five Britons killed in a seaplane crash north of Sydney have been named; pictured is one of the bodies being removed by police and paramedics
An officer carries a piece of debris recovered from a seaplane that crashed into the Hawkesbury River
Business leaders have paid tribute to Compass CEO today.
Richard's friend Rupert Soames, CEO of public services business Serco, tweeted today: 'Terribly sad to read about Richard Cousins, his two boys, the new love of his life and her daughter. All killed in Sydney seaplane. Such an able man, and a hugely respected CEO of Compass. RIP'.
When Mr Cousins announced in September that he would be retiring from catering business Compass Group in March, the company's share price plummeted.
The 58-year-old had also served on the board of supermarket giant Tesco, but resigned last year in protest at plans to buy wholesaler Booker.
Paul Walsh, Compass chairman, said: 'We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news.
'The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard's family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.
'It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the last few years.
'Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain's leading companies.'
Surrey County Cricket Club chief executive Richard Gould said businessman Mr Cousins was deeply passionate about the sport, and was further connected to the club through a hospitality joint venture involving his firm.
Mr Gould said: 'Richard was a regular and very popular visitor to the Kia Oval, and a great supporter of cricket.
'He was a member of all 18 first-class counties.
'This is a tragic incident.'
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered his condolences to the families of those killed in the crash.
'It is a tragic accident and... our hearts go out to the families of those whose lives were lost,' Mr Turnbull said in Bondi on Monday.
'We don't know yet what caused it, but it's just a tragedy. We grieve for those who lost their lives.'
Police are now working on the logistics of refloating the wreckage.
The plane will need to be brought back to the surface before forensic air-crash investigators can piece together what went wrong. One theory is that the seaplane's pilot was trying to make an emergency landing.
Witnesses enjoying New Year's Eve in boats on the river said they saw the aircraft make a sharp turn before nosediving into the water. One witness said it appeared a wing hit the water first.
Video taken from a nearby boat shows what is believed to be the doomed aircraft just moments before it plunged into the Hawkesbury River around 3pm local time.
Police said the wreckage of the aircraft, operated by Sydney Seaplanes, was eventually found on the bottom of Cowan Creek under 42ft of water with the bodies inside.
A police spokesman said: 'For reasons that are not known at this stage, the plane has hit the water and it has subsequently sunk.
'At the time of the collision, there was a pilot and five passengers on board. I can confirm the six people on the plane are deceased.'
Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw confirmed that the aircraft was one of theirs and said they were working with police on the scene.
He said: 'All at Sydney Seaplanes are deeply shocked by this incident and the resulting loss of life.
'We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the passengers and pilot who were tragically killed. We do not yet know the cause of the accident.
'We are dedicating our full resources in assisting the NSW Police, the Australian Transport Safety Board, Civil Aviation Safety Authority and other relevant authorities to understand the cause of the accident.'
Sydney Seaplanes have suspended flights after the crash involving one of its planes (pictured landing in May)
Divers are pictured searching Cowan Creek near Jerusalem Bay on the Hawkesbury River east of Cowan for the wreckage
He added: 'Sydney Seaplanes has been operating since 2005, have undertaken thousands of flights in that period and have had an unblemished safety record until now.
'The safety of our passengers and staff is our absolute primary and highest priority.
'Our aircraft are professionally maintained to manufacturer's specifications and our seaplane pilots are some of the most experienced in the world.'
The company has suspended all operations until further notice, Mr Shaw said.
A Sydney Seaplanes pilot took to Facebook to write: 'Thoughts are with the guys from Sydney Seaplanes this afternoon, hope they are all well and things have a positive outcome. Top bunch of guys working there.'
For $534AUD (£309) per person, the company's website boats that guests will 'indulge in an exceptional three-course lunch before flying over the magnificent icons of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.'
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau sent three vehicles to investigate the incident and Daily Mail Australia has reached out to them for more information.
In a statement, the ATSB said investigators were en route from Canberra to the crash site to investigate 'the ditching of a single-engine seaplane'.
A British holidaymaker who flew in the doomed Australian seaplane just four hours before it crashed killing all on board took what is believed to be the last photograph of tragic pilot Gareth Morgan alive.
The mum-of-two, from Kirklees, West Yorks, enjoyed a scenic aerial tour of Sydney Harbour in the seven-seater aircraft piloted by Gareth, 44, with her husband and two children at 11am on New Year's Eve.
Just hours later at 3pm, Canadian Gareth and his five British passengers all died when the same plane nosedived into the Hawkesbury River at Cowan Creek, 30km north of Sydney.
The Kirklees IT communications manager, 47, said: 'We were on the same aircraft that flew at 11am that morning - it was definitely the same one because it had the same ID number.
'I sat at the front next to Gareth and was chatting to him the whole time, so it really does bring it home to you how close it could have been. It really could have been us.
'We were absolutely buzzing when we came off the flight but obviously when we found out what happened it put a huge dampener on everything, because we were so shocked thinking it could have been us.
'I don't know how it can have happened because the whole time we were flying with Gareth his ability was clear - he was obviously skilled, he was giving us lots of information about where we were and kept us well-informed.
'He had us all at ease. It was an immaculate plane and such a beautiful smooth ride, there were no bumps or anything, we were really comfortable.
'For this family it was supposed to be a fun day and the build-up to a massive new year's eve celebration in the evening, but instead it turned into a tragedy.
'We had such a fantastic experience and to hear people just after us had that same experience and died at the end of it is beyond comprehension'.
Kate Middleton's sister Pippa flew on the seaplane that crashed into a Sydney river killing millionaire British CEO and four family members
Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews flew on the same seaplane which crashed on New Year's Eve, killing all six on board, just seven months ago during their honeymoon.
The couple took the same trip on the De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver to an exclusive river restaurant north of Sydney as the five holidaying Britons, including an 11-year-old girl, who were killed.
Pippa, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, and James were pictured in the aircraft with the call sign VH-NOO in late May as they flew to and from lunch at the swanky Cottage Point Inn.
Prominent businessman Richard Cousins, 58, his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, Ms Bowden's daughter Heather, 11, and Mr Cousins's sons Edward, 23, and William, 25, were killed in the accident on Sunday.
Video taken from a nearby boat shows what is believed to be the doomed aircraft just moments before it plunged into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, near Cowan, about 3pm local time.
Pippa Middleton steps into the seaplane which crashed in the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, on Sunday afternoon
The Duchess of Cambridge's sister Pippa Middleton seated in the seaplane which crashed on Sunday killing all six on board
The wreckage of the 54-year-old aircraft, operated by Sydney Seaplanes, was eventually found on the bottom of Cowan Creek under 42ft (13m) of water with the bodies inside. The bodies have all been removed.