Wigan mum with cancer didn't want to be 'a burden', inquest told

Bolton Coroner's Court
Bolton Coroner's Court

A mum who was battling terminal cancer died by suicide because she did not want to be a burden, an inquest heard.

Bolton Coroner’s Court was told the tragic circumstances in which 41-year-old Deborah Riley was found dead at her Platt Bridge home in April.

The inquest heard how mum-of-three Deborah had lived a healthy and active life until she suddenly began feeling ill at work one day last summer.

She and her family were devastated to be told she had bowel cancer and it had spread into her liver, meaning it was not possible to operate on it after a first course of chemotherapy.

At that point Deborah was told she had stage four cancer and given around two years to live.

She was found at her house on Wyredale Crescent on April 17. Coroner John Pollard recorded a conclusion of suicide and the medical cause of death was given as hanging.

The court was told Deborah had exchanged a number of messages with a friend in the early hours of the morning she died expressing her intention to take her own life and saying sorry.

In a statement her eldest daughter Leonnie Myers spoke of how the family’s world and Deborah’s life was turned upside down by the shocking cancer diagnosis.

She said: “Being told she had stage four cancer was devastating news but mum kept positive. After her bowel surgery she seemed to be doing very well and it was only in the weeks before she died things obviously began to take their toll.

“She was a fantastic mum who always put her own family first and is very sadly missed.

“She was with her own mother at the very end when she had cancer and I don’t think she wanted to put us through that.

“It was getting to the point of relying on us more and more to take care of her.

“She loved life and in any other circumstances would never have considered taking her own life.”

That was also the view of Mr Pollard when he gave his conclusion to the inquest.

He said: “The only conclusion I can reach is suicide. She would have known what she was doing and why.

“It is very sad that she did that. It is completely out of character. She would never have contemplated it if it had not been for that dreadful illness.

“She obviously didn’t want to be a burden to anybody else.”

The inquest heard Deborah had enjoyed excellent health and rarely needed to visit the GP until she was taken ill last summer at her job as a customer service advisor for Arrow XL complaining of severe stomach pains.

She continued to do well after her bowel surgery but in the final weeks of her life the cancer began to take its toll, the court heard.

Ms Myers said the last time she saw her mum she seemed to be struggling and was in more pain. Deborah also told her she was sleeping a lot.

Her partner David Latham wrote in his statement that he and Deborah had broken up shortly after the diagnosis as she did not want her illness to be a burden on their relationship but they got back together after a few weeks.

Sarah Taylor, the partner of Deborah’s brother, told the inquest Deborah posted on Facebook at around 4am on the day she died and the two friends exchanged messages.

Deborah talked openly about harming herself and Sarah, becoming very concerned, asked multiple times if she could visit her at home.

Ms Taylor said Deborah had mostly been upbeat despite her illness but had once confessed how tough battling cancer was.

She said: “She used to come to our house for lunch and she was quite full of it, quite happy.

“However, I know she said about two weeks before her death that nobody realised how much pain she was in. She was very brave.”

A post-mortem examination revealed some substances and alcohol in Deborah’s system at the time of her death but Mr Pollard ruled these had not impacted on her judgement or actions.

Investigations ruled out third-party involvement or suspicious circumstances.

Samaritans are available to help and can be contacted at any time on 116 123 for free.