The stepson of Pauline Hanna has revealed she was "horrendously stressed" before her death last month, which continues to be treated as "unexplained".
Hanna, also known as Pauline Polkinghorne, was found dead in her home in the Auckland suburb of Remuera in early April.
Nearly two months after the mysterious death, stepson Ben Polkinghorne says his family has been going through hell.
Hanna was a top health director with the Counties Manukau District Health Board and most recently as head of logistics for New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccine rollout - a role her stepson says she reluctantly took.
Polkinghorne says he wants people to know the truth about his step mum.
"Seven weeks ago, I dropped everything in London to fly back and support my family," he said in a statement posted to Facebook.
"The week before Pauline died, she sent me an email saying she 'reluctantly' took the role as head of logistics for NZ's COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
"She said it was 'incredibly difficult and lonely.' Of course, it was.
"At the time, the media were screaming about how the rollout was miles behind schedule."
Polkinghorne said his step mum was working 100 hour weeks and had recently lost her mother to dementia.
He said he had to live with the fact Hanna wasn't in a good place, "things were clearly out of hand", he said.
"So how is her death still being treated as unexplained?"
Polkinghorne concluded by asking the media to "stop trying to assassinate my dad". Stuff earlier reported police were interviewing people within the social circle of Philip Polkinghorne, Hanna's husband.
Ben described Hanna as "amazing" and said he was incredibly close with his step mum.
"The Polkinghorne and Hanna families would like some time to grieve for the enormously gifted, fantastically intelligent, caring, thoughtful, beautiful and vibrant Pauline we will cherish forever."
Few details about the investigation into Hanna's death have been made public by the police. Det Insp Aaron Pascoe told Newshub earlier this month they were continuing to investigate the circumstances which remained "unexplained".
"Our enquiries remain ongoing and police will not be commenting on specifics of our ongoing investigation."