AN OXFORD Academy assistant headteacher who died suddenly has been described as a passionate, multi-talented individual with a “film star smile”.

Nina von Eichstorff, who would have turned 52 on Friday, was found dead at her home in Southfield Road, East Oxford, last Saturday at 7.35pm.

Staff and students at Oxford Academy, in Littlemore, where she had worked for 15 years as an art teacher, were informed via a post on the school’s website.

Headteacher Niall McWilliams said: “I heard the news on Sunday morning. It’s all a bit of a blur. I would not be exaggerating if I said we are all totally devastated by this news.

“She was a brilliant teacher, and also had whole-school responsibilities. She looked after other qualified teachers; that’s a reflection of her ability.

“She was really well-respected and well-liked by teachers, staff, parents and governors. I know the kids will be devastated.”

He added the appropriate counselling would be put in place for students and staff. The school is likely to arrange a tribute in Miss von Eichstorff’s memory.

Miss von Eichstorff grew up in Grantchester, Cambridge with parents Iris and Oswald von Eichstorff, and brother Peter, now a doctor.

She left home for Oxford at 16. After attending secretarial college she took her A-levels at City of Oxford College, then Oxford CFE, before embarking on a series of art courses at Banbury Art College and Camberwell Art College.

Aged about 24, she began a degree in arts and education at Oxford Brookes.

She began teaching at Oxford Academy, then Peers School, in 2000 after a stint at The Mulberry Bush School in Standlake.

Close friend and ex-partner Tim Coleman, 58, said: “For the most part she loved the kids and was full of stories about them.

“She was quite a strict teacher. She really believed in them and wanted them to do well.

“When kids - through their own efforts or talents, or through the coaching of teachers - got something out of a subject it meant so much to Nina.”

Mr Coleman, of Warwick Road, had known Miss von Eichstorff since her late teens when they shared a flat together in Oxford.

A keen photographer at the time, he took several black-and-white snaps of Nina in her youth.

Banbury Cake:

  • Nina aged about 22

He said: “She always had that film star smile.

“We were very close. Some weeks we saw each other every day. We would go to the gym and gripe about it, then share a bottle of wine - exactly shared - and watch some rubbish TV.”

Mr Coleman said Miss von Eichstorff, who lived with her cat Mia, always dressed “very nicely” and had a weakness for the MailOnline.

She was also a keen gardener.

He said: “She had a beautiful garden. We used to share an allotment where she grew vegetables.

“At home I’d cleared some space for her - she would have had broad beans and garlic coming through her little plastic pots.”

He added that some weeks ago she had gone to an open day for an art therapy course in Goldsmith’s College, London, and had been preparing her application since.

He said: “It was a really strong application. She was really happy; it looked like it was going to be a golden period for her.

“She had a good day on Saturday. We were going to go to dinner, and it was my birthday on the Sunday.”

It was Mr Coleman who found her body on the Saturday night. A medic arrived shortly after and confirmed she had been dead for about three hours, he said. Miss von Eichstorff’s family have been informed.

The cause of death is unknown and it is anticipated an inquest will be opened soon.

A memorial service is expected to be held in a few weeks’ time.