A COMMUNITY has paid heartfelt tributes to a ‘popular, kind and much-loved’ vet who died after being found with life-threatening injuries outside his surgery.

Villagers in Malpas have been left shocked at the sudden death of father-of-four Ray Williamson, a well-known and highly respected partner at Hampton Veterinary Group in Hampton Heath.

Police discovered the 57-year-old outside the practice on Monday morning, having suffered serious injuries believed to be from a gunshot.

Mr Williamson, who was also the on-course vet for Chester Racecourse on race days, lived in Bickley with wife Judy and had three daughters and a son.

This week Mr Williamson’s shocked colleagues paid tribute to him in a statement posted on the surgery’s website.

It 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 caring and jovial personality we know he will be greatly missed by all.”

Originally a cattle vet, Mr Williamson later became well known for his work in equine medicine and had worked at Bangor-on-Dee races for more than 20 years.

He was also a former chair of governors at Malpas Alport Endowed Primary School.

Headteacher Sarah Worthington said: “We are truly saddened by the news of Ray’s death and I’d like to send, on behalf of the whole school, our love and thoughts to his family at this sad time.

“Ray was our school’s chair of governors until 18 months ago and guided us through many projects including the extensive building work we have undertaken.

“He was a fantastic man, totally committed to the school, who worked tirelessly to ensure our pupils had the best education and facilities possible.

“He was incredibly supportive, dedicated and will be greatly missed.”

Richard Thomas, Chester Race Company’s chief executive and Jeannie Chantler, general manager of Bangor-on-Dee racecourse, said they were ‘saddened’ to hear of his death.

“Ray was a major part of every raceday at both courses, throughout the years,” they said.

“He’d been with us so long I can’t even find out the date he began, but it was over 20 years ago at Bangor-on- Dee.

“Ray’s professionalism shone through, his compassion when talking to owners and trainers of horses he was dealing with, the way he was able to communicate with the stable staff who love the horses they care for.

“We’ll miss his banter and his humour.”

Online tributes to Mr Williamson described him as ‘the funniest, kindest, lovely man that everyone loved and respected.’

And some of the comments left by posters on the Horse and Hounds forum said he had been a ‘great vet and friendly man, full of fun who will be missed by many people’.

Cheshire police spokeswoman 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.”