Wife, 35, who hanged herself feared she would 'die from cancer'

Investment banker’s Russian finance analyst wife, 35, who hanged herself after ‘drowning her son, 7, in the bath’ feared she would die from ‘likely curable’ breast cancer and wanted divorce, inquest hears

  • Yulia Gokcedag, 35, wanted a divorce and return to Russia, the hearing was told
  • Finance analyst was found dead inside an apartment in east London on August 13
  • Her son, Timur, was found drowned in bath with his clothes laid out on the side
  • Doctors gave Mrs Gokcedag a 97% chance of surviving cancer, coroner heard
  • Anyone seeking help can call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org 

An investment banker’s Russian finance analyst wife who was found hanged after doctors believe she may have drowned her son in the bath feared she would die from ‘likely curable’ breast cancer, an inquest heard.

The hearing was also told Yulia Gokcedag, 35, wanted a divorce from her difficult marriage and return to Russia.

Mrs Gokcedag was found dead inside an apartment in east London on August 13, with a post-mortem giving her cause of death as hanging. Her seven-year-old son, Timur, was found drowned in the bath with his clothes laid out on the side. 

Dr Nathaniel Cary, who carried out Timur’s post-mortem, said the boy suffered minimal bruising to his scalp and chin which could have been ‘consistent with enforced immersion’. 

The hearing was also told Yulia Gokcedag (pictured above), 35, wanted a divorce from her ‘toxic’ marriage and return to Russia

Mehmet Gokcedag, Timur and Yulia (from left to right) pictured in a recent family photograph taken before Yulia’s breast cancer diagnosis

Doctors gave the Russian-born finance analyst a 97 per cent chance of surviving breast cancer but she believed she would be part of the three per cent exception, the coroner heard.

She also told her mother she was afraid to die despite going on to take her own life, it was said.

Mrs Gokcedag was due to undergo surgery days before the tragedy on August 13, 2020 and was also receiving therapy to help cope with her fear, insomnia and anxiety.

A coroner heard Mrs Gokcedag also described feelings of psychological abuse to her psychiatrist and said she was planning to divorce her husband and take Timur to Russia.

The inquest into their deaths was opened on August 24 and resumed today at Poplar Coroners Court.

Husband Mehmet Gokcedag, a financial risk manager of Wimbledon, told the inquest: ‘It is very unimaginable why and how she could do this.

‘The child that came out of her, why would she take his life?’

In a statement read to the court, Mrs Gokcedag’s friend said Mrs Gokcedag confided in her during lockdown about her cancer and about wanting a divorce.

Mrs Gokcedag was a banking analyst who had won awards while working at Barclays. She shared pictures of her and her husband, Mehmet Gokcedag, 50, enjoying life in London 

Mehmet, Timur and Yulia in a recent family photograph. The hearing was told Yulia, 35, wanted a divorce from her ‘toxic’ marriage and return to Russia

Katharina Sellner, who lived next door to Mrs Gokcedag in the Isle of Dogs, east London, where the bodies were found, said she often heard Mr Gokcedag shouting from next door and that she called police on one occasion in fear of their safety.

She told the inquest: ‘From April 2020 when we were in lockdown because of the pandemic, Yulia would open up to me.

‘I am aware that she had cancer but she seemed to be improving. In the first year living as neighbours, we heard a lot of shouting next door.

‘Leading up to December 2019, the shouting became worse. On one occasion, I was woken in the middle on the night by Mehmet shouting.

‘I called police as I heard Mehmet shouting very loudly. He shouted ‘learn more or go back to your country and learn English.’

‘I heard Timur shouting to Mehmet ‘please stop, please stop shouting daddy’

‘This was not the first time I heard the shouting. This was the worst I heard the shouting and I feared for Timur and Yulia’s safety.’

Katharina met with Mrs Gokcedag in a park after her mother told her Mrs Gokcedag was getting a divorce and asked for her help.

She added: ‘She said Mehmet would not let Timur speak Russian. She told me she wanted a divorce. She told me she was depressed.

Mrs Gokcedag and her son Timur were found dead inside the property, with a post-mortem giving their causes of death as hanging and drowning

‘We had a code word called ‘tree’ and I asked Yulia to text it to me if she was in danger.

‘I noticed after that Yulia had obtained a divorce magazine.’

She later added: ‘I have never seen Mehmet be violent. On one occasion in lockdown, I saw Mehmet yank his son’s arm and pull him towards him.’

Mr Gokcedag objected to Katharina’s statement but added: ‘We had certain marriage issues, I do accept.’

The British Turkish banker told the coroner Mrs Gokcedag and her mother Elena Galieva would also shout at him and that he felt excluded when they spoke in Russian.

He added: ‘It was a very difficult life. I have a stressful job, yes I did shout but I never abused my wife.’

Mr Gokcedag wept as he recalled fond memories of his wife buying a kite for their son which he hoped would attach her to life.

The location of Mrs Gokcedag’s flat in Tower Hamlets, east London, where she was found dead with her son on August 13

He said: ‘She bought a kite for Timur. She went out with Timur to enjoy life and fly the kite together.

‘We did that as a family, father and mother and son. I always thought she would attach herself to life if she did those things.

‘She never said she thought Timur would be better off dead. She loved him.’

Mr Gokcedag told of the last time he saw his wife and son at their home, seeing his sleeping son and cuddling his wife on the morning on August 12.

He said: ‘Timur was sleeping. I went to Yulia and I asked my wife if she would like to be with me and she said “yes”. 

‘We had intimacy as a husband and wife that morning. Then we cuddled and we talked about quite a lot of things.’

He also told the inquest of his wife’s battle with mental health and her fear of death.

He added: ‘She said that there was a constant vibration inside her. Something vibrating that she could not get out of her body. She had a fear of death.’

Pathologist Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl found no evidence of third party involvement in Yulia’s death, no marks of recent or historic violence or self harm, and gave a medical cause of death of hanging.

Regarding Timur’s death, pathologist Dr Cary found minimal bruising possibly caused by immersion and gave a medical cause of death as drowning.

In the report, the pathologist added: ‘It may be that Timur was rapidly overwhelmed while initially passively sitting in the bath. There is no evidence that he was sedated.’

Mother Ms Galieva referred to Mrs Gokcedag as the dream daughter who was a happy, healthy person before her marriage.

She told the inquest Mrs Gokcedag was scared of her cancer diagnosis and felt as though she had ‘a storm on her chest’ potentially due to angina.

After her cancer diagnosis, Mrs Gokcedag called her father, a military doctor in Russia, and asked her mother to come to London in January.

She told her mum she had a three per cent chance of survival despite doctors’ reassurances that it was in fact 97 per cent.

Speaking at the inquest, Ms Galieva said: ‘Yulia was the daughter you could only dream about. She was a very kind person. She had a lot of friends. She would more often think about other people than think about herself.

‘She would constantly blame herself of everything. It has destroyed her from the inside.’

Ms Galieva also said she was aware of her daughter’s anxieties, but believed nothing would happen as she was with her son.

She told the inquest: ‘I blame myself for not going out with them. But I was 100 per cent sure that if Yulia had Timur with her, nothing could happen to her.’

Before lockdown, the pair looked for alternative treatments such as acupuncture which Ms Galieva said was to help her daughter’s anxiety.

She added: ‘She used to tell me she felt like ‘a storm is lying on my chest..’ She was even unable to cry. She was keeping all her emotions inside.’

Ms Galieva said her daughter expressed wanting to drown herself in May and asked her mother to take Timur to Russia before her July operation.

Her mother said her daughter was also scared by information about cancer she found on the internet.

The inquest heard it was clear the mother and son were already dead when police and paramedics arrived (file photo) 

She also described her relationship as toxic and said her daughter had wanted a divorce.

She added: ‘Before her marriage, Yulia was a happy and healthy person. I became witness to how toxic their relationship was.’

Professor Amanda Ramirez, a psychiatrist, told the inquest Mrs Gokcedag suffered from acute and severe anxiety, insomnia and a strong fear of dying from cancer.

Prof Ramirez added: ‘She would describe palpitations, chest pains, difficulty sleeping. Her anxiety was very hard to bear.’

The inquest heard it was clear the mother and son were already dead when police and paramedics arrived and they were officially pronounced dead at 3.35am on August 13.

Paramedic Rhian Williams told the inquest of a woman found hanging in the entrance area and a boy in the bath.

The inquest continues.

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

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