Rider took her own life after death of beloved horse

Stephanie Lees riding Jake in 2009.
Stephanie Lees riding Jake in 2009.
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A talented horsewoman took her own life after writing a note saying that she could no longer cope following the death of her beloved mare.

Devoted horse lover Stephanie Lees killed herself hours after her horse Jake was put to sleep.

Miss Lees, who had been riding since the age of 10, was found holding a lock from his mane, an inquest heard.

The horse had been lame for a few months and had to be put down, the hearing was told.

Miss Lees had owned Jake for ten years and become even more attached to him when her other horse, Elliot, died three years earlier.

The inquest heard how Miss Lees, 42, was found by friends from the stable clutching a lock from Jake’s mane slumped in her car, which she had left running with a hosepipe running from the exhaust pipe into the vehicle, poisoning herself with carbon monoxide.

A note was later found at the chartered surveyor’s house in Cawthorne in Barnsley, explaining her life was devoted to horse Jake and that she could no longer cope following him being put to sleep.

In a statement read out at the Sheffield inquest, Miss Lees’ friend from the stables Jane Taylor told of her shock at finding her dead in the driver’s seat of her Honda on Remembrance day last November.

She said: “That day I went up to the stables to go for a ride with my friend Helen.

“We passed a gateway that gives access to a parking area. I heard Helen say ‘Oh my God’, then I heard the words ‘Steph’ and ‘hosepipe’.

“Helen was pulling at the hosepipe that was coming through the car’s exhaust. I pulled it from the window.

“I could smell the exhaust fumes coming through the car, then I looked around for something to smash the window with.”

The women called emergency services.

Ms Taylor added: “She had a lock of her horse’s hair in her hands”.

The hearing heard how Jake had been put to sleep due to an illness called colic, which manifested following an operation on his leg the week before.

Miss Lees’ close friend Joanne Weatherall told the inquest: “Stephanie remained with Jake right up until the point the vet administered the injection. She was very upset.”

Stephen Taylor, from South Yorkshire Police, told the hearing that following the discovery of Miss Lees’ body, a search of her house in Barnsley uncovered a note.

He said: “It was basically saying that she lived for her horses and because the horse had been put to sleep she couldn’t cope anymore.

“There was also a list of a dozen friends giving an amount of money to each person on the list.”

Recording a verdict of suicide, assistant coroner Julian Fox said Miss Lees was clearly distressed by the death of her horse.

She had been a great lover of horses in particular her horse Jake, who had been ill with a bad leg. She hadn’t been able to ride him for 18 months or so.

“It was concluded that sadly Jake needed to be put down.

“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, saying: “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.”