Coroner report finds groom Ken Dooley died of natural causes at Kempton
Ken Dooley, the groom whose death at a Kempton evening meeting last October was widely assumed to have been caused by a kick to the head from a horse he was attending, died of natural causes, it can now be confirmed.
Dooley had been attending to a runner trained by Amanda Perrett, for whom he had worked for seven years, when he was found lying on the ground in the stables area, having suffered what was believed to have been a kick to the head, such was the quantity of blood present in the facial area.
However, there were factors on the evening inconsistent with such an incident – CCTV showed Dooley putting the stable door on the latch, and then walking a significant distance with his coat over his arm before staggering and collapsing – and correspondence from the Surrey Coroners Court seen by the Racing Post has provided a very different explanation.
It confirms that Dooley, who was understood to have felt unwell earlier that week, had died naturally.
The official cause of death is understood to have been a massive haemoptysis – a huge haemorrhage where a lung cancer, which had been giving him the vague cough and unwellness, finally eroded through into a critical blood vessel.
Dublin-born Dooley, who was 57, had spent his working life with racehorses, with spells with several trainers in Ireland, among them Jim Bolger, leading to a long and rewarding time at Belmont Park, New York, and finally on to Coombelands in Sussex, where he was a valued member of staff, and a popular one too.
Perrett said: "My core staff have known for a while but I think it's really important for the wider racing world to know what happened too, as everybody at the time was so shocked that someone could be killed like that while working at a racecourse.
"It doesn't make Ken's death any less tragic or sad, but horse racing is a wonderful sport and he loved his work. He would not have wanted anyone to be put off riding or looking after horses by what was thought to have happened that night at Kempton."
Perrett, who has nothing but praise for the work done by the medical team and the staff at Kempton, added: "Racing was Ken's life, and he'd done it all over the world to a top level. He was as happy going to work that evening as I've ever seen him, and we can only take comfort from the fact that he didn't suffer.
"Although one should never take chances with horses, it was hard to believe at the time that Parnassian, the horse he had taken to Kempton that night, would have done such a thing as he has a lovely temperament.
"The CCTV footage actually showed Ken tying the horse up before he went for help himself. It was typical of him to look after Parnassian before he looked after himself."