Talented rider took own life after death of beloved horse

Steph Lees riding Jake in 2009. Steph Lees, 42 of Hawthorne, Barnsley, who took her own life a day after her horse Jake was put to sleep after going lame.
Steph Lees riding Jake in 2009. Steph Lees, 42 of Hawthorne, Barnsley, who took her own life a day after her horse Jake was put to sleep after going lame.
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A talented horsewoman took her own life hours after her beloved horse was put to sleep, an inquest heard.

Chartered surveyor Stephanie Lees, from Cawthorne near Barnsley, was found clutching a lock of hair from the mane of her horse Jake when her body was discovered in her car.

She had left a note for her parents saying ‘she lived for her horses and because the horse was put to sleep she couldn’t go on anymore’.

Miss Lees had become greatly attached to Jake when her other horse, Elliot, died three years earlier.

An inquest in Sheffield on Monday ruled Miss Lees, aged 42, had committed suicide.

She died of carbon monoxide poisoning after running a hosepipe from her car’s exhaust into the vehicle on November 9 last year.

Her body was found by friends close to the stables where Jake had been put down the evening before.

The inquest heard she had a lock of the horse’s hair in her hands.

Jake had been ill for around 18 months and had undergone an operation to fix a damaged joint. But he was found to have developed colic and was too weak to have further treatment.

As a result, Miss Lees had to call a vet for him to be put down.

Her friend Joanne Weatherall had been with Miss Lees the evening before her suicide.

In a statement read to the court, she said her friend had been ‘devastated’ that the horse was to be put to sleep and had been ‘sobbing while hugging Jake’.

Miss Weatherall and her daughter comforted Miss Lees at her home and said by the time they left she was ‘still tearful but appeared more composed’ and said she was ‘fine’.

Miss Lees’ body was discovered the following morning by two other friends who had been out on riding.

Assistant coroner Julian Fox said: “Steph was not able to watch Jake die and was clearly very, very distressed when that took place.

“Despite having a good circle of friends it seems clear to me that she felt she could live no longer.

“Having heard the circumstances relating to Jake and in relation to the way her body was found and a note saying goodbye I have no doubt at all that Steph did intend to take her own life.”

Mr Fox expressed his sympathy to Miss Lees’ parents John and Josephine, who attended the hearing.

He said: “Perhaps in her mind at last she is now with the horse she loved. It is an extremely unexpected event, this lady was very talented and capable and barely in the prime of her life.”