Team GB wheelchair basketball star killed herself days after hospital discharge
21st February 2020
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A talented wheelchair basketball player who is believed to have taken her own life has been described as an "inspiration".

Morwenna Johnson, 22, was found lifeless in her hotel room at a Travelodge in the village of Talke in Staffordshire last month.

The sudden death came just days after Morwenna – who played for the Stoke Spitfires wheelchair basketball club and was known as Mo – was discharged from Harplands Hospital.

The fierce sportswoman, who had also represented Team GB and Scotland, was able-bodied when she first joined the club.

In a cruel twist of fate, she ended up in a wheelchair at the age of 18 when she suffered a spinal stroke due to a cyst, but continued to play the sport she loved.

Paying tribute, her best friend Emma Johnson told Stoke-on-Trent Live she feels "like I've lost my shadow".

"Despite her problems Mo's death came as a huge shock. I thought she had turned a corner," the 32-year-old from Tunstall said.


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"We'd only just been speaking on the phone and I text her on my way home from work.

"I immediately became worried when I saw she hadn't read one of my messages the following morning. The hotel checked her room and that's when they found her.

"She was so bubbly, you would never know that anything was wrong. She was stunning but had no idea how beautiful she was.

"She always asked about everyone else but never worried about herself. She was completely selfless but she just thought of herself as a burden.

"The only thing she wasn't determined to do was live any longer."

The friends, who met through the wheelchair basketball club, were so close that Mo even changed her last name from Hastings to Johnson last year as she considered Emma family.

An inquest is yet to be held but it is believed that the former Newcastle College student took her own life.

Staffordshire Police say they are not treating Mo's death on January 17 as suspicious.

"We were together all the time.  In the last days she only slept at the hotel but the rest of the time she would be with me. I would then take her back each evening," Emma continued.

"I feel like I've lost my shadow. I'm so lost and empty without her.

"We held a memorial service for her with everything she told me she wanted."

She described how basketball was Mo's biggest passion in life.

"When she was playing basketball she was so fierce, she was really competitive. It was her biggest passion in life," Emma added.

"She started at Stoke Spitfires and even represented Team GB and Scotland where she previously lived.

"She got a place at Worcester University in 2016 and started doing  disability sport before switching to social work.

"She then got a scholarship to go to Alabama in America in 2017. She played basketball and continued her social work studies. She even won the distinguished scholar award.

"But in early 2019 she came back to Stoke-on-Trent because she was struggling with her mental health.


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"She started at Staffordshire University and rejoined the Stoke Spitfires and even played a couple of games. When she was playing basketball she was so fierce, she was really competitive.

"But she continued to struggle and was in and out of the Harplands."

Andrew Flower, head coach and chairman of Stoke Spitfires, says "bright and bubbly" Mo was one of the most talented players he had ever met who had a "very quick rise to stardom".

"Mo came to us six or seven years ago following a chance meeting in a car park. She was able-bodied, it was later on that she had physical issues," he said.

"It was a very quick rise to stardom. You could tell straight away how talented she was. She just had ability and everything clicked.  She was just born to it.

"We helped her all we could but it soon became clear she was too good and needed to move on to get better coaching. We as a club could only progress her so far.

"She went on to represent GB and she also played for Scotland which made her very proud.

"When she came back to this country she asked if she could rejoin and actually played a couple of games but then the worst new came and her life was cut short.

"She was always laughing and joking around and was an inspiration to the younger members.

"She was very bright and bubbly. She would light up a room. Her death is a great loss."

If you are experiencing mental health problems, feeling suicidal, or are concerned about someone else, support is available. Speak with your GP, who can refer into appropriate local services, contact the Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline on 0808 800 2234 for, for out-of-hours support,  call the Samaritans on 116123.

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