Beauty queen, 25, who died at Michael Owen's stables believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest, says her half-sister | The Sun

A BEAUTY queen who died after falling from a horse at football legend Michael Owen's stables is thought to have suffered a cardiac arrest, her family have revealed.

Jessica Whalley's half-sister has spoken for the first time about the tragedy at ex-England star Owen's Manor House Stables in Malpas, Cheshire.

Jessica, a contestant for Britain in the 2019 Miss Tourism Universe pageant, died on March 28 – five days before she was due to turn 26.

Owen, who was seen in tears after witnessing the tragedy, later described it as "the worst day of my life".

Now Joanna's half-sister Leonna Mayor, a jockey as well as presenter for ITV and Sky Sports, has revealed new details about what happened.

Leonna said: "She was very young and I feel the pain of my grandmother and aunt who were very close to her.'

"As far as we know, she cantered up the gallop on the first lot, got to the top and had a cardiac arrest.

"They tried to resuscitate her for 30 minutes but they couldn't bring her back. She has since had a post-mortem and nothing has shown up.

"We assumed that something would come to light, a heart defect or something we didn't know was there, but it hasn't.

"We now have to wait for the blood tests – it's six to 12 weeks for full blood works."

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Leonna, 32, from in Winsford in Cheshire, shared a father with Jessica – farmer Michael Whalley – though they were brought up separately with different mothers.

She said: "We weren't that close because my father hasn't made much effort with his children over the years.

"But I felt a really weird sad emptiness really, not being close to her or having a relationship for the last few years."

Jessica was one of the transport managers at Manor House Stables, which is co-owned by ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United striker Owen and his former Love Island contestant daughter Gemma, 19.

Ms Whalley, known by pals as Jess, represented the UK in the MTV-screened Miss Tourism Universe pageant in Lebanese capital Beirut in 2019 – finishing in the top ten.

Tributes paid after her death came from friends and former colleagues.

Her best friend Allison Samuel told The Sun: "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.

"And beautiful too – she could have been a model. It’s such a tragedy – it would have been her 26th birthday this Saturday."

George McGrath, CEO of the National Association of Racing Staff, described Miss Whalley as "much loved".

He said: "Jessica had worked in Newmarket for a time. She had gone to rejoin Hugo Palmer in Cheshire.

"She was a much loved and respected member of the racing community and taken from us at much too early in age."

Jockey Zander Voy added: "It’s heartbreaking to hear Jess lost her life today at the tender age of 25."

Mr Palmer, trainer at Owen's stables, himself said: "She was very good at her job and she died doing the job she loved."

Ms Whalley also previously worked for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former deputy ruler of Dubai, UAE, who owned 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."

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Ms Mayor said she was now talking for the first time about her late half-sister to help raise awareness for the charity Brain Tumour Research, which campaigns about the condition which can cause cardiac arrest.

She has previously opened up about her own "rapidly worsening" skin condition vitiligo.

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