'The worst day of my life': Michael Owen opens up on tragic death of staff member at his racing stables

21 April 2023, 17:33 | Updated: 21 April 2023, 17:34

Michael Owen (L) has spoken of his devastation over the death of staff member Jessica Whalley (R) at his racing yard, calling it “worst day of my life”.
Michael Owen (L) has spoken of his devastation over the death of staff member Jessica Whalley (R) at his racing yard, calling it “worst day of my life”. Picture: Getty / social media

By Chris Samuel

Michael Owen has spoken of his devastation over the death of a staff member at his racing yard, calling it the “worst day of my life”.

Jessica Whalley, who was a senior member of the travelling staff at the ex-footballer's Manor House Stables, collapsed while riding out a horse on March 28.

Colleagues carried out CPR until the emergency services arrived, but despite the best efforts of paramedics, she died, aged 25.

Her death is not being treated as suspicious by Cheshire Police.

Mr Owen who was reportedly in tears with the rest of the team on the day of the tragedy has now opened up on the incident, and paid tribute to Ms Whalley and the ambulance staff who attended to her.

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Speaking to Sky Sports Racing, he said: “It was a tragic incident that could have happened at any time. Nothing can really prepare you for something like that.

“A young girl who was supremely talented at what she did, who was massively popular, a real important member of the yard, the staff and everything else.

Michael Owen paid tribute to Ms Whalley and the ambulance staff who attended to her.
Michael Owen paid tribute to Ms Whalley and the ambulance staff who attended to her. Picture: Getty

He continued: “Lots of people will be out there feeling the same thing. They will have lost somebody close to them or family member of whatever it is. What words can you say to describe it?

“Being there and being part of the whole day with the ambulance staff, who were amazing. Having to come down and tell 40 or her friends what’s happened and things like that, what can you say? It was the worst day of my life.”

Mr Owen's trainer Hugo Palmer said last month that Ms Whalley coming back from the gallops on a three-year-old filly she had ridden out when she collapsed out of the saddle.

One of the last photos taken of Jessica Whalley.
One of the last photos taken of Jessica Whalley. Picture: Social media

“Jess had worked the horse, pulled up at the top of the gallop and was then returning to a trot, then a walk,” he said. “Jess slipped limply off the horse and didn’t move.

He added: “She died doing a job that she appeared to love and was certainly very good at. She was exceptionally capable.”

Speaking shortly after the incident, Alison Samuel, a friend of Ms Whalley's who used to work with her at another stables in Suffolk said: "I just couldn't believe it - we loved her dearly.

"She was such a lovely girl who really enjoyed her job. She was popular - everyone liked her and she was a lovely young woman."

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