Double tragedy as Devon mum and daughter, 19, found dead days apart – Devon Live

Tributes have been paid to a mother and her 19-year-old daughter who both suddenly died within just over a week of each other.

Much-loved teenager Rhianne Halton had given birth to her second child just six weeks before she tragically ended her life at her home in Torquay on May 10, 2020.

An inquest held in Plymouth yesterday heard Rhianne had a long history of mental health problems due to a ‘difficult childhood’ which saw her being raised by her devoted grandparents.

Her schooling at Newton Abbot College had been affected by bullying, which was said to have been due to her peers knowing about her mother’s drug addiction.

Rhianne, who had hopes of becoming a hairdresser, gave birth to her second son during lockdown. Postnatal services had been significantly impacted by the first coronavirus pandemic lockdown which meant face-to-face after birth visits could not be carried out.

Rhianne Halton with her mum Jeanette Whittle

Rhianne Halton with her mum Jeanette Whittle

However, a review concluded they would not have been able to prevent her death.

Following Rhianne’s death, her grieving 44-year-old mother – Jeanette Whittle – suffered an overdose on May 20, followed by a fatal one on May 29, 2020.

A double funeral was held for Rhianne and Jeanette.

Barbara and Graham Whittle – Jeanette’s parents and Rhianne’s grandparents – then had to endure the heartbreak of having to sit through separate inquests into their deaths yesterday.

Paying tribute to Rhianne afterwards, Barbara said: “She was lovely and loved to have a laugh, but sadly she did suffer from mental health issues which started when she was at school. Although she had a few problems she was always happy.

“Her death was a complete shock. I knew she had post-natal depression but she wouldn’t let me take her to the doctors because she was worried her children would be taken away from her.”

Paying tribute to Jeanette, she said: “She was a wonderful daughter, even when she was into drugs. She got in with a bad crowd and had tried to come off the drugs but couldn’t in the end.

“She did have some lovely friends and she really did love Rhianne, but she just couldn’t look after her.

Rhianne did not share her grandmother's fear of snakes

Rhianne did not share her grandmother’s fear of snakes

“After Rhianne’s death she was devastated. She had been trying to get off the drugs again, and wanted to for her grandchildren.

“Both she and Rhianne would come here every Sunday for lunch before lockdown. They both adored the boys.

“I really don’t know if Jeanette’s overdose was intentional or not. I like to think it might have been an accident.

“Their deaths so close to each other has been very, very upsetting. Every day that sadness is there.”

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The inquest into Rhianne’s death heard that she gave birth to her second son on March 30, 2020, and that no indication of any mental health problems afterwards had been detected during phone conversations with midwives and health visitors.

DC Jenny Hazelwood, the officer in charge of the investigation, told the inquest that on the morning of Rhianne’s death on May 10, 2020, she had argued with her partner.

He discovered she had ended her life when he returned back to the property at 1.35pm, after receiving text messages which gave him cause for concern.

She left a suicide note for her boys saying how she loved them, and adding that ‘daddy will look after you’.

The double funeral of Rhianne Halton and Jeanette Whittle

The double funeral of Rhianne Halton and Jeanette Whittle

In a statement, her grandad told how Rhianne, who was Newton Abbot Carnival Queen in 2015, had struggled with a number of difficult relationships in her life, including the one with her current partner.

A post mortem examination confirmed the cause of her death was suspension by ligature.

A serious incident review report following Rhianne’s death concluded it had demonstrated the importance of face-to-face contact, particular for more vulnerable women.

Due to fast-changing national guidelines, it was assured that face-to-face appointments have resumed and continued during lockdown.

The review concluded Rhianne’s death could not have been prevented, and that professionals had observed she had a ‘very positive’ relationship with her children.

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A Devon Partnership Trust consultant perinatal psychiatrist stated she believed Rhianne’s actions were a spontaneous reaction to the situation she was in on the day she died.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, assistant coroner Stephen Covell said: “I don’t find any deficiencies or failings by health services or anyone that would have had any material effect on the day Rhianne took her life.

“The deceased intended to take her life. She suffered mental health problems, attributable to childhood trauma, and was in acute distress due to relationship difficulties.”

The inquest into Jeanette’s death heard she was found by a friend passed away on her bed at her home in Kingskerswell.

Medical records stated a long history of drug dependence, and that she had been receiving support from the Together Drug and Alcohol team in Newton Abbot.

It was noted she had been admitted to hospital on May 20 after overdosing on medication she had taken with alcohol.

Her GP told how she had admitted to suffering a ‘bit of a breakdown’ but had not intended to kill herself and instead had wanted to ‘calm herself down’.

Her dad told in a statement how she had studied to be a chef at South Devon College and had previously worked at The Barn Owl in Kingskerswell before being introduced to drugs.

Mr Whittle recalled: “She was no longer the bubbly girl we knew. In 1995 she came to me for help and said she was addicted to heroin.”

Jeanette Whittle in her younger days

Jeanette Whittle in her younger days

Jeanette went on to have periods of being off drugs, but shortly after the birth of her daughter Rhianne she relapsed. Due to her chaotic lifestyle, Rhianne lived with Jeanette’s parents, but mum and daughter remained in regular contact.

Recalling how Jeanette had been following Rhianne’s death, Graham said: “I think she probably resorted to drugs as it was the only way she knew how to cope.”

He added that the last time they had spoken on the phone she had seemed her normal self, but had been leaving personal items at their house such as photographs.

However, the inquest heard Jeanette had been forward planning such as having gone shopping the day before she was found, and did not leave a suicide note.

Graham said: “I did not think she would take own life. I thought she would want to stay alive for her grandchildren so we have been left shocked and devastated by her death.”

A post mortem examination confirmed the cause of her death was mixed drug toxicity. It was stated she had taken potentially fatal levels of cocaine, heroin and methadone.

Recording a conclusion of drug related death, assistant coroner Mr Covell said: “She probably knew it was quite a significant quantity of drugs. She may have wanted to blot out the memory and stress of her daughter’s suicide, and the events on May 20 seemed to be a rehearsal for that.

“To go as far as saying intended to take her life, I am not persuaded by that.”

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