The racing executive wife of Tory MP Owen Paterson happily greeted neighbours on her daily horse ride just hours before she was found dead in woodland close to their Shropshire mansion on her husband’s 64th birthday, MailOnline can reveal.
Mr Paterson, a former cabinet minister under David Cameron and Conservative MP for North Shropshire, said the loss of his wife, Rose, 63, had come as a ‘terrible shock’ to the family.
West Mercia Police said the death was currently being treated as unexplained. A spokesman said: ‘We can confirm the body of a woman has been found in woodland near Pant Lane in Sodylt in Ellesmere. At this stage there is believed to be no third party involvement’. She added the body was found in the ‘early hours of this morning’.
Mrs Paterson, the daughter of the fourth Viscount Ridley, was the chairman of Aintree Racecourse and a Jockey Club board member. The couple married in 1980 and had two sons, Ned and Felix, and a daughter, Evie.
Mr Paterson said today: ‘It is with great sadness that I must inform you that my wife, Rose, has been found dead at our family home in Shropshire. Rose and I were married for 40 happy years. She was a wonderful, caring wife, mother and grandmother. Her death has come as a terrible shock to us all’.
Mrs Paterson was seen as recently as yesterday lunchtime, when she appeared to be in good health and spirits with no sign of the tragedy that would follow hours later, a neighbour told MailOnline.
She said: ‘My mum saw her on her horse yesterday about midday. They exchanged hellos, there was nothing remarkable about it. Overnight, about 1am, my mother heard the police helicopter over head. She was found a short distance from here.’
Another neighbour said she heard police cars driving to and from the property until about 2.30am. She said: ‘We were woken up by the police helicopter and saw police cars racing past on the main road outside’.
Rose Paterson’s death came as she became embroiled in a planning row alongside housing secretary Robert Jenrick, who has asked his department to re-examine an application by the Jockey Club for 300-plus homes and a hotel at Sandown Park, after it had been unanimously rejected by Surrey councillors last year. His intervention has raised concerns about conflicts of interest because of the Jockey Club’s links to senior Conservative figures including Mrs Paterson, who sits on the club’s board. No final decision has been made.
The couple married in 1980 while Mr Paterson was working for the family’s luxury leather business where he worked for more than 20 years before being elected to Parliament. He has led various leather and tannery trade associations and on top of his MP’s salary he has made tens of thousands a year from consultancy work for food, healthcare and scientific companies. In 2017 he was the 12th highest earning MP based on earnings outside Parliament.
His wife was the second daughter of Matthew White Ridley, the 4th Viscount Ridley, who died in 2012, whose title was then handed down to his only son, also called Matthew. Since 1698 the family’s seat has been the grand Blagdon Estate in Northumberland where Mrs Paterson grew up.
The wife of Tory MP Owen Paterson, Rose Paterson, pictured together in 2011 at the Tory Party Conference, has been found dead at home
Mrs Paterson is believed to have been found in these woods behind the family’s mansion and farm in Shropshire
Mr and Mrs Paterson have three children, a daughter Evie, right with her parents, and two sons Ned and Felix
Mr Paterson, a former cabinet minister under David Cameron and Conservative MP for North Shropshire, said his wife had been found dead at their constituency home (pictured)
Jockeys hold a minute silence before racing at Haydock in mark of respect for the passing of Rose Paterson and Liam Tredwell, who also died this week
The couple have three children and at least one grandchild
It is not known if Mrs Paterson had health problems, but in March Mr Paterson revealed they both came down with coronavirus and spent 15 days in quarantine together but despite feeling ‘very groggy’, the MP said they recovered.
Rose was appointed Chairman of Aintree in 2014, having been a Racecourse Committee Director at the famous home of the Randox Health Grand National since 2005. She was appointed a Steward of The Jockey Club in 2019.
Downing Street said that Boris Johnson had offered his condolences to Mr Paterson and his family.
‘The PM heard the news this morning and has written to Owen.
‘His thoughts and every sympathy are with Owen, his children and grandchildren at this difficult time,’ a spokesman said.
Paying tribute, Sandy Dudgeon, Senior Steward of The Jockey Club, said: ‘This is tragic news and our thoughts go out to Rose’s husband Owen and all members of her family.
‘Rose was a wonderful person and involved in so many aspects of our sport. She was a skilled Chairman at Aintree, a valued member of our Board of Stewards and headed up our Horse Welfare Group. She also enjoyed participating at grassroots level over many years.
‘We appreciated her contribution very much and my fellow Stewards and I looked forward to hearing her sound views on a subject, where she was always sensitive to the best course of action for racing. She will be missed greatly for the person she was.’
The couple share a love of horses and Owen Paterson and his wife Rose are pictured here taking part in the Mongol Derby in 2011
Mrs Paterson, the daughter of the fourth Viscount Ridley, was the chairman of Aintree Racecourse and a Jockey Club board member. Couple pictured at the Grand National in 2017
The Pattersons have three children together, two sons Felix and Ned and a daughter called Evie.
Evie, 28, is a talented horse rider who won the British Junior Eventing Championships in 2008 when she was just 16.
She is understood to currently live in London and her social media profile shows she is a keen music lover with a photo at a festival with one of her brothers.
Felix, a former student at Dublin’s Trinity College, is a keen traveller who has posted pictures of his trips away online.
Ned, a global marketing manager at drinks brand Pernod Ricard, also lives in London. He studied Spanish and French at Durham University but went to school in Shrewsbury.
Mrs Paterson was in the news this week after Housing Minister Robert Jenrick was facing questions over a second planning row, involving the Jockey Club, of which she is on the board.
Mr Jenrick has called in an application for it to build 318 homes and a hotel at Sandown Park in Esher, Surrey. Its board includes Tory peer Baroness Harding, who oversees the Government’s coronavirus test and trace programme, Rose Paterson, and Peter Stanley, who last year donated £5,000 to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s constituency office in Newmarket, where the Jockey Club is based.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has insisted that ‘each planning appeal is taken on its own merits’.