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December 9, 2008
Mother arrested as 'yuppie-flu' daughter is found dead after 16 years in bed
By Vanessa Allen, Colin Fernandez and Tamara Cohen
Last updated at 7:25 AM on 09th December 2008
A mother who nursed her daughter for 17 years with the disease ME has been arrested on suspicion of her murder following what is believed to have been a 'mercy killing'.
Police sources revealed that Lynn Gilderdale, 31, died from a massive overdose of morphine after attempting suicide with the same drug at least twice during her battle with the debilitating condition.
Detectives arrested her mother Kay, 54, over suspicions that she helped administer the fatal dose after watching her daughter suffer since she was 14.
Bedridden Victim Lynn Gilderdale, 31, had been confined to her home for 16 years
Mrs Gilderdale, a trained nurse, was the full-time carer for her frail daughter, who had been bedridden for more than 16 years and was taking a cocktail of drugs for her condition.
Police were called to their bungalow in Stonegate, near Heathfield, East Sussex, on Thursday after the alarm was raised by Lynn's father, Mrs Gilderdale's ex-husband Richard, a former police sergeant.
Mrs Gilderdale was arrested on suspicion of murder, interviewed and released on police bail on Friday. The suspected 'mercy killing' will reignite the right-to-die debate over assisted suicide.
Yesterday she and her ex-husband released a statement on behalf of their family.
Pointedly referring to Mrs Gilderdale's 'total dedication' to her daughter, they said: 'Lynn was young, beautiful, loving and caring. At the age of 14 years she was struck down by ME - an illness greatly misunderstood - and as a result, suffered the stigma attached to this dreadful illness.
'She fought long and hard for 17 years with immense bravery, enduring constant pain and sickness.
'Every system of her body was affected. She required 24-hour care that was provided by her totally- dedicated mother, with continuous support from Lynn's father.'
They said Lynn had been active and healthy until she was 14. She had a tuberculosis immunisation in November 1991 and immediately felt unwell.
She was diagnosed with ME in May 1992 and was left bedridden by her severe condition. She had been unable to speak since August that year.
Her family said: 'Prior to her illness, which left her paralysed, unable to speak, eat or drink and until recently, no memory, she was an active healthy teenager full of life's dreams.
'She enjoyed sailing, swimming, cycling and was an accomplished musician. Her family praise and admire Lynn for her courage, which she showed to the end.
'She was a much-loved daughter, sister and granddaughter who despite her illness always gave love and support to others.
GILL SWAIN: I've seen patients paralysed dying Aids victims, starving children... but I've never seen anyone as ill as Lynn
'Lynn's family say her death will leave a massive void in their lives - and the love she gave so unreservedly, will be missed every minute of the day.' Police were called to the £400,000 bungalow at 8.30am on Thursday. Mrs Gilderdale was arrested just after 10am.
A post-mortem examination has been carried out but police refused to reveal the cause of death pending further toxicology tests.
Chief Inspector Heather Keating said: 'This is a very tragic incident. We are not looking for anyone else in connection with it.'
A Sussex police spokesman said Mr Gilderdale, who still works for the force in a civilian role, was not suspected of any involvement in his daughter's death.
He split from his wife in 2002. The couple, who also have a son, Steven, said their divorce had not been caused by their daughter's illness.
Mr Gilderdale still lives nearby and is said to have visited his daughter daily and to have helped with her day-to-day care.
He was with his Irish-born ex-wife at the family home yesterday, where she was being comforted by her sister.
Mrs Gilderdale has been a prominent campaigner over the illness which struck down her daughter.
The family statement added: 'In life, Lynn strove to help the medical profession improve their insight into ME which affects thousands of people, in varying degrees of severity.
'Her dedicated mother, supported by Lynn's family, has pledged to achieve her ultimate goal - for better understanding and recognition of this life-destroying illness.'
THE AGONISING TRUTH ABOUT 'YUPPIE FLU'
ME affects up to 250,000 sufferers in Britain. Although it was first documented in the 1930s, it was not officially recognised by the Government's medical advisers until 2002.
Until then victims of myalgic encephalomyelitis were often dismissed as having 'yuppie flu', as its symptoms were considered particularly common among overworked middle-class professionals.
Common symptoms include severe fatigue, painful muscles and joints, insomnia, gastric disorders and poor memory and concentration. There is currently no test or cure and doctors are able to diagnose it only after ruling out other possible causes, including flu, diabetes and depression.
The condition usually develops during the early twenties to mid-forties although children can also be affected, most probably between the ages of 13 and 15. Women account for up to three-quarters of all cases.
Prior to her illness at the age of 12, Lynn enjoyed a normal childhood before being struck down.
Sufferers include the athlete Dame Kelly Holmes, who was struck down in 2001 but recovered and went on to win double gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Scientists believe it could be carried in the genes, or be set off by a 'trigger' including bacterial illness, a viral infection such as glandular fever, stress, depression or a reaction to a traumatic event, such as bereavement or redundancy.
Some sufferers recover fully within two years and the majority learn to manage their condition with anti-depressants and painkillers and through avoiding stress, monitoring their energy levels and taking gentle exercise.
But around a quarter go on to develop severe ME lasting for years or even decades, often leaving them completely housebound and totally reliant on carers.
In his 2002 report the Chief Medical Officer, Liam Donaldson, said ME 'should be classified as a chronic condition with long-term effects on health, alongside other illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease.'