A beauty queen died after falling from her horse at Michael Owen‘s stables, a friend has claimed today.
Jessica Whalley, 25, could not be revived by paramedics after she collapsed at Manor House Stables near Malpas in Cheshire, where she worked as a transport manager, on Tuesday morning.
She tragically died just days before her 26th birthday this Saturday, her friend Allison Samuel has revealed.
She told The Sun that Miss Whalley died after falling from her horse. But sources at the stable denied this, telling MailOnline that it would be ‘premature’ to say so and calling it ‘an incident rather than an accident’.
Paying tribute to the ‘lovely girl who really enjoyed her job’, Ms Samuel, who used to work with her in stables at Newmarket in Suffolk, told the paper: ‘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. This is so unexpected, she was so fit and healthy.
A friend posted this photograph of Jessica Whalley, 25, after her death and said it had been taken just 72 hours previously
Miss Whalley tragically died at work at Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables in Cheshire
‘And beautiful too – she could have been a model. It’s such a tragedy – it would have been her 26th birthday this Saturday. We have been told that it was a very sudden and [she] fell from her horse – so it has come as a terrible shock.’
Miss Samuel also said her friend – who wanted to be head girl at a yard – relocated to Cheshire after her parents split up and the trainer Hugo Palmer also moved up north.
Owen and his staff were said to have been in floods of tears after Miss Whalley’s death.
A spokesman for HM Coroner’s Office for Cheshire confirmed to MailOnline this morning that the death was referred to its office yesterday but a decision on an inquest has not yet been taken, with the case still ‘in its very early stages’.
In an emotional tribute on Facebook one of Miss Whalley’s friends, jockey Zander Voy, shared the last image of the former beauty queen enjoying a glass of wine just three days before the tragedy.
Mr Voy wrote: ‘It’s heartbreaking to hear Jess lost her life today at the tender age of 25. She was riding out doing what she loved. We had so many great times working in Dubai. May she rest in peace. Here’s her just 72 hours ago.’
A witness, Jessica Mair, posted on Facebook: ‘So sad seeing him [Michael Owen] and all his staff in tears today after such a shock to them – such a young age, no health problems…
Ex-England star Michael Owen and staff at Manor House Stables were in tears after the death
Miss Whalley was one of the transport managers at Manor House Stables and also rode horses
‘Life really is too short for we never really know how long we have. Thoughts go out to her family and friends.’
Emergency services attended the stables at around 7.30am on Tuesday, but Miss Whalley was pronounced dead at the scene. Police were informed at around 8.50am.
The force said the death is not being treated as suspicious and her next of kin have been informed. A file will be prepared for the coroner.
In a statement, Manor House Stables said: ‘It is with deep sadness that we have to announce that a much-valued member of our team died at work this morning [Tuesday].
‘The family have been informed and both the family and the team at Manor House request privacy at this time.’
Ms Whalley described herself as ‘travelling head person’ at Manor House Stables, and also as working for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai, UAE, who owns a large international network of thoroughbred stables.
In 2018, she posted a photo of the Gulf state, writing: ‘I cannot wait for this to be home for the next 6 months.’
Manor House Stables expressed their condolences to Miss Whalley’s family in a statement
She represented the UK in Miss Tourism Universe pageant in 2019 and reached the final ten
In official documents published by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner this month, she is listed as one of the transport managers at Manor House Stables.
She is also a former beauty queen and in 2019 represented the UK in Miss Tourism Universe pageant, screened on MTV and held in Beirut, making it into the final ten contestants.
This week, Miss Whalley’s friends Maxine Bowley and Jo Neesam both changed their Facebook profiles to photos with her, and their timelines were flooded with messages of condolences.
North West Ambulance Service confirmed it had been called to attend Owen’s stables just before 7.30am with Cheshire Police arriving later.
A spokesman said in a statement: ‘We received at call at 7.26 this morning [Tuesday]. We did attend but I am unable to confirm any more details.’
The stables is a purpose-built training facility created by Owen and his family. It has been the base for trainer Hugo Palmer since last spring.
The animal lover worked for a large international network of thoroughbred stables
Since the news of her death, Miss Whalley’s friends and family have paid tribute to her online
Owen, a former England footballer who played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, set up the stables in 2006.
Last summer, his daughter Gemma, an international dressage champion, showcased her impressive horse riding skills at the stables.
Her own horse, called Sirius Black and described as ‘one in a million’, died suddenly in February this year aged 18.
There are 105 horses in training at Manor House Stables ahead of the new flat turf season which is due to begin on Saturday.
Trainers Fergal O’Brien and Graeme McPherson, said: ‘Thoughts with all involved.’
One said: ‘Gosh this is absolutely awful news. I am so sorry. Deepest condolences to you all and the family who have lost a loved one.’
While another posted: ‘So sorry to the family and everyone at MHS! A lovely, pleasant person to have worked with! RIP.’