Mum ‘who feared cancer had returned’ hanged herself in daughter’s wardrobe

A mum-of-one who wrongly believed her cancer had returned hanged herself in her daughter’s wardrobe, an inquest heard.

Dawn Cheetham, 43, had beaten breast cancer with chemotherapy in 2015 but she was worried after developing stomach pains.

An inquest heard how she was was found dead at her home in Wardle near Rochdale, Greater Manchester, by partner Jonathan Mellor in July.

The pair had argued the night before after he went out with friends instead of having a date night with her.

Tragically, a post mortem examination later showed there were no traces of cancerous cells.


The Heywood hearing was told the dental practice manager and Mr Mellor had been together for 17 years and had been living together since 2010.

They had a daughter together who is now eight.

Mr Mellor said: “Dawn was bubbly, a good laugh and a lovely lady. But in 2014, she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She had chemotherapy and she got through it. But, this was constantly on her mind and it was a major issue.

“Every little bit of pain or a stomach cramp, she thought it was the cancer coming back – and I think that’s why she did what she did.

“She was a hard grafter, she would always cover people’s shifts and work late. She was a dental nurse and she went on to become a manager.

“Everyone knew she was really good at her job and she took it really seriously, maybe a little bit too seriously. She was really fatigued, she would have two to three hours sleep but, because of how she was, she would go straight into work.


“I probably wasn’t helping at the time so, I was probably a bit of a stress to her as well. I think it was an accumulation of things.

“The last time I saw her was on Friday, July 13.

“We had never argued but on that night I wanted to go out with the lads because I was stressed when it was normally date night for us.

“I went out for a few drinks and she phoned my parents and my father came and got me and I went home and we had a bit of an argument and I stormed off. I just went back to the pub, had a drink and calmed myself down.

“I came home after last orders at about 12am. I tried to get in the house but I couldn’t as she had left the keys in the front door.

“I thought she did it as punishment, so I just slept in the car – but woke up at about 5am and I went back to the house and knocked on the door, but got no answer.

“I then put the ladders up to the back bedroom window but it was shut. I tried ringing her too, but there was no answer. So, I went to my parents – I just didn’t think there was any cause for concern – I just thought she was just being stubborn.

“But my mum went around and she said to me that she thought something is wrong. We went back to went back to the house, we were knocking on the door and we go no answer.


“So I kicked the door through and went upstairs and I walked into my little girl’s room and I found her. When they did the post-mortem, she didn’t have one tiny bit of cancer in her body.”

In a statement Dr Sarah Kelly, a psychologist at Pennine Care said: “Dawn had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone chemotherapy in 2015.

“She said that she was worried about her daughter as her daughter had witnessed her feeling unwell.

“She said she wanted psychiatric help for herself, specifically for the benefit of her daughter.

“Her anxiety had recently been exacerbated because she found a lump in her breast – but she did not mention any plan to self harm. Dawn cited her partner, her daughter and other family members as protective factors against that.

“Dawn attended her first treatment session on July 9. She engaged well with that process and asked if future sessions could be held on a Monday due to her work schedule. No concerns were raised about her posing a risk to herself or others. Dawn, unfortunately, did not attend the second treatment session because she had already passed away.”

Det Insp Alicia Smith who investigated the tragedy said: “I spoke to Dawn’s sister, Amanda, and she told me that she had a conversation with her the night before.

“She rang Dawn, but she had interrupted an argument between her and Jonathan and Dawn told her to ring her back.

“Dawn also mentioned to Amanda that she had researched the survival rate for cancer sufferers and she believed that the cancer was coming back. Amanda offered to come over but Dawn told her that she just wanted to starfish in her bed alone.”

“I think that she was upset because Friday was supposed to be date night and he decided to go out with his friends instead.”

Recording a conclusion of death by suicide coroner Lia Hashmi said: “I think the argument with Jonathan was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think it was an accumulation of events that will have led to the significant variation in her state of mind.

“She was a dedicated, hard working and intelligent woman. I am quite sure that all the issues, including her cancer and depression, had a significant variation on her mind; but it can’t be said for sure if one, or even any, brought about the circumstances of her death.

“She identified the problem and worked with a therapist, but, regrettably, she died before the second session.

“I am satisfied that she took her own life, but the intention remains unclear. I want to put on the record my condolences to you – I know your pain will never go away.”

If you need to speak to someone, Samaritans are available 24/7 by calling 116 123 or by emailing [email protected]

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