How did Becky die in Happy Valley?

The death of Catherine's daughter still hangs heavy on the police officer

a still of Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley season 3 griefing for her daughter Becky
(Image credit: Future/BBC)

WARNING: This article contains information that some readers might find distressing.

The ironically named Happy Valley filmed (opens in new tab) in Yorkshire, is a drama which at it's crux centres around the death of Becky Cawood. Though long departed in Happy Valley season 3 (opens in new tab), Catherine's daughter and Ryan's mother still remains paramount to the storyline, with Catherine's grief and ever-present hatred for Ryan's jailed father - Tommy Lee Royce -  remaining linked to her daughter's death. 

After learning that Ryan has been visiting his dad in prison secretly, an upset Catherine tries to tell the teen more of the complicated truth about how his mother Becky died. With the first series airing back in 2014, some viewers are a bit hazy on the details - like why season 2's Alison killed her son (opens in new tab). So we've shared a recap on how Becky died in Happy Valley, as viewers wait for when Happy Valley is next on (opens in new tab).

How did Becky die in Happy Valley?

Catherine's daughter and Ryan's mother Rebecca 'Becky' Cawood died by suicide in Happy Valley. The troubled 18-year-old took her life in 2006, six weeks after Ryan was born.

The viewer understands that Catherine blames criminal Tommy Lee Royce for her daughter's death. Royce sexually assaulted Becky - resulting in her pregnancy with Ryan. Becky was scared to tell her parents of the pregnancy, with Catherine and dad Richard only learning she was pregnant after she started showing. She initally told them it was a one-night stand. However, Ryan's mother left a note before she died citing Tommy Lee Royce as the father and explaining how she really came to be pregnant. Catherine believes the trauma of the assault led Becky to end her life.

Tommy's version of events differ, as he instead maintains that he and Becky were in a relationship. In the third episode of Happy Valley season 3, when Ryan goes to visit his dad in the Sheffield prison, Tommy tells his son how 'he loved his mother'.

Later in the same episode, we learn that Ryan doesn't know the full extent of his mother's death. Catherine shares how she's tried to protect Ryan from the disturbing truth - with Ryan initially believing his mum died during child birth.

Catherine had hoped to finally sit down and explain the truth of his mother's death when Ryan was 18. However, with a teenage Ryan now visiting his dad in prison, Catherine decides to drop hints around how Becky really died.

Following their doorstop chat, Ryan now understands that his mother died of suicide and not during childbirth. Though as yet, he's still in the dark about Tommy's assault on his mother and their relationship.

a close up of Becky's son Ryan Cawood (Rhys Connah) in a still from Happy Valley

Becky's son Ryan in Happy Valley season 3 (played by Rhys Connah).

(Image credit: BBC)

Who plays Becky in Happy Valley?

Actress Emily Barnett plays Becky Cawood in Happy Valley. Audiences saw a flashback vision of a dead Becky in episode 3 of season 3 as Catherine grappled with her sister Claire and Neil's betrayal.

Prior to this, the character of Becky has only ever been mentioned by name in the series. In the first season though, viewers do see Becky's grave, when the family go visit and lay flowers in her memory. "Beloved daughter of Catherine and Richard and sister of Daniel. In God is my hope," reads the grave, citing her active years as 1988 - 2006.

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When is Happy Valley next on?

Episode 5 of Happy Valley will next air on Sunday 27 January at 9pm on BBC One. Season 3 consists of 6 episodes in total, so this means the next episode will be the penultimate one.

If you need to catch up on the current season, you can find all released episodes of Happy Valley on BBC iPlayer (opens in new tab). The streaming service also has the whole Happy Valley season one and season two boxset - if you'd like to go back and refresh your memory on what happened prior to the latest series.

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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.