Mother drowned her son and then took her own life ‘because she was terrified to die of cancer’

Rachael Burford
·3 min read
Yulia Gokcedag was found dead after drowning her son Timur in their flat near Canary Wharf (handout)
Yulia Gokcedag was found dead after drowning her son Timur in their flat near Canary Wharf (handout)

A "severely anxious" mother drowned her seven-year-old son before taking her own life after becoming "terrified" she would die from cancer, an inquest heard.

Financial analyst Yulia Gokcedag, 35, was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before lockdown, Poplar Coroner’s Court was told today.

She hanged herself after drowning her son Timur in their flat near Canary Wharf on August 13, just days after doctors told her she had responded well to chemotherapy and was booked in for a final surgery.

Police forced their way into one of the family’s properties on the Isle of Dogs after the pair were reported missing by Mrs Gokcedag’s financial risk manager husband Mehmet.

Mrs Gokcedag, who worked for Moody’s Investors Service, had briefly talked about taking her own life with family and doctors in May but convinced them she was not serious about the plan.

She told them wanted a divorce from her difficult marriage and to return to Russia with Timur.

There was “absolutely nothing” to suggest she would harm her son, the court heard.

Mrs Gokcedag’s mother Elena Galivea moved to the UK in January to help her daughter while she underwent chemotherapy.

Speaking at the inquest through an interpreter she said: “Yulia was the daughter you dream of having. She was very kind. She would think about other people more often than herself ... I believed Yulia would never do anything to herself or Timur.”

Mrs Galivea said that her daughter had told her she wanted to kill herself in May but was also “extremely scared” of dying of cancer, despite being given a 97 percent chance of survival.

“I was trying to convince her that she was going to be cured,” Mrs Galivea said.

“But she thought she only had a three percent chance of survival.”

Mr Gokcedag said he and his wife had often argued but they loved each other. She told him about her suicidal thoughts once and he found a letter from the Swiss assisted dying clinic Dignitas in their home. But she later assured him she has no intention of killing herself.

He said: "My wife was a very nice person. She was a good mother...she loved our son and it is unimaginable how she could do this."

Mrs Gokcedag had been living with depression and anxiety for many years and was referred to a psychiatrist before starting her cancer treatment at the end of January when doctors became worried about her "severe anxiety".

In the months before her death she was seeing two physiatrists in the UK and attending a Russian support service for cancer sufferers.

None of them believeved she posed a serious threat to herself or others .

Doctor Amanda Ramirez said: "Yulia was suffering from acute and severe anxiety with insomnia.

"She had a strong fear of dying from cancer... She said she had no thoughts of ending her life. She reassured me saying she was committed to life.

Oncologist Paul Ellis saw her on August 11 and said there was there was no indiction she was suicidal.

He said: “She had a cancer that was curable and she had a fantastic response to treatment. She probably would have been cured. I almost feel like I failed her.”

Senior Coroner Mary Hassell determined that Timur was unlawfully killed by his mother on August 12 and she then died by suicide.

"The series of events seems clearly to me that Yulia drowned Timur and then hanged herself," she said.

"I think that the likelihood is that Yulia decided to kill herself and made a plan to carry out the act. Her anxiety was so extreme and so misdirected and misjudged she appears to have thought it better to take Timur with her."

Anyone seeking help can call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org