TRIBUTES have been paid to a highly-respected vet who died after being found with life-threatening injuries at his Cheshire practice.
Father-of-four Ray Williamson, 57, worked at Chester Racecourse as the on-course vet on race days for the last eight years, and was a partner at Hampton Veterinary Group in Hampton Heath, near Malpas.
He was found at the surgery in Post Office Lane on Monday morning having suffered life threatening injuries, believed to be from a gunshot.
Mr Williamson began working as a racecourse vet at Chester in 2004 and had also worked at Bangor-on-Dee races for more than 20 years.
Chester Race Company chief executive Richard Thomas and Jeannie Chantler, general manager at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse, led the tributes to Mr Williamson.
They said: “Ray was a major part of every race day at both courses throughout the years.
“He had been with us so long I can’t even find the date he began, but it was more than 20 years ago at Bangor on Dee. He and his colleagues started at Chester in 2004.
“Ray’s professionalism shone through; his compassion when talking to owners and trainers of horses he was dealing with and the way he was able to communicate with the stable staff who love the horses they care for.
“His great enthusiasm for his work and the way he made his colleagues and friends laugh, even when there may have been a difficult situation, were just some of the great qualities he possessed.
“Being a racecourse vet means working lots of weekends over and above the normal long veterinary hours and we were very grateful Ray gave up his time so willingly to assist us.
“We will miss his banter and his humour.”
Mr Williamson lived in Bickley, near Malpas, with his wife Judy and also is survived by three daughters and a son.
He joined Hampton Veterinary Group 25 years ago as a cattle vet after qualifying from Cambridge but soon became well known for his work with horses.
Colleagues paid tribute to Mr Williamson in a statement on the surgery’s website.
They said: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the tragic loss of our dearest friend and colleague Ray Williamson.
“He was such an incredible vet with a large, caring and jovial personality we know he will be greatly missed by all.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time. Rest in peace ‘Brother’.”
Mr Williamson also worked as a racecourse vet at Aintree and at point-to-point meetings across the North West and North Wales.
He worked for Grand National winning trainer Donald McCain and was secretary of the Association of Racecourse Veterinary Surgeons.
Mr McCain, whose stables are in Cholmondeley, posted on Twitter: “Very sadly lost our vet Ray Williamson yesterday, a truly lovely man.”
Cheshire Police spokesman Rachel Hayes said: “At 8.34am on Monday, October 22, police were called to a veterinary surgery in Malpas by paramedics.
“On arrival at the surgery in Post Office Lane, Hampton, officers discovered a 57-year-old man with life threatening injuries.
“Sadly the man was pronounced dead a short while later.
“Detectives investigated the circumstances and confirmed it was not suspicious. A file is being prepared for the coroner.”