@anp405, my first guess would be that by setting PYTHONPATH you are losing the location of PyQt5 package. This depends on your Python and environment setup, but if there is some PYTHONPATH existing, you are overriding it completely instead of complementing. You can verify this by opening a new command line session, setting PYTHONPATH to wherever your code sets it, then running Python interpreter and trying to import PyQt5.
Another guess would be that your child process uses different Python environment (e.g. built-in system Python 2), which does not have PyQt5 installed in its site-packages.