Jun 27 2012
Last picture ever taken of Campbell Gillies at Gatwick airport
A SCOTS jockey has died in a swimming pool accident just four hours after arriving in Greece for a holiday to celebrate his 22nd birthday today.
Campbell Gillies’s death came just months after securing the biggest win of his racing career at the Cheltenham Festival.
Greek police confirmed he drowned after jumping into a pool in his holiday complex when he got back from a drinking session with pals early yesterday.
He had raced at Hexham on Sunday before heading for Kavos on the island of Corfu with fellow jockeys Henry Brooke, Nathan Moscrop, Harry Haynes and Mark Ellwood on Monday night.
Campbell had happily posed for a picture with his friends enjoying pre-flight beers at Gatwick airport.
The group arrived at the Olive Grove Trees apartments near the main strip in Kavos at 3.30am yesterday and went straight out partying. Four hours later, Campbell was dead.
His panic-stricken friends rushed to the nearby Etaki Hotel to raise the alarm and get help but by the time a doctor arrived 10 minutes later, it was too late.
Corfu police confirmed they are investigating the tragedy.
A spokesman said: “Mr Gillies arrived on Monday night. He was with friends, and they went in to Kavos for entertainments.
“When he returned he and his friends went to the swimming pool. He went into the pool but lost consciousness and he died.
“He was probably drunk but we cannot confirm this.”
Campbell’s mum Lesley, brother Finlay and sister Rita were too upset to speak at the family home in Haddington, East Lothian, but his uncle Rory McNeill paid tribute to him on their behalf.
He said: “The whole family is devastated and trying to come to terms with our loss.
“Campbell was dearly loved by one and all and this is shown by the tributes to him.”
Foreign Office officials are helping the family finalise arrangements to bring his body back to Scotland.
Last night, tributes to the jockey poured in from family, friends and the racing world.
Trainer Lucinda Russell, Campbell’s boss at the Arlary stables in Kinross, said: “This dreadful news has hit the whole yard.
“Campbell was a much loved, popular and respected member at Arlary, and it is so hard to lose part of our ‘family’.
“We are immensely proud of Campbell’s achievements.
“It was through his innate ability and talent that he reached great heights as a jockey at such an early age.
“More than that, he had a wonderful charm that I believe came across to everyone who met him.”
And First Minister Alex Salmond, an avid racing fan, said: “This is devastating news.
“Campbell Gillies had achieved extraordinary success, highlighted by his victory at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
“The loss of his outstanding talent is a huge blow, not just to racing but to Scottish sport.”
Fellow jockeys led the tributes on Twitter.
Champion jockey Tony McCoy said: “Very sad news about Campbell Gillies – a very good jockey but an even better bloke. All our thoughts are with his family. RIP.”
Former Grand National winner jockey Barry Geraghty added: “He was a very good rider and a lovely fella. He will be sadly missed.”
And TV racing presenter Clare Balding said: “So sad to hear that jump jockey Campbell Gillies has died in an accident on holiday. He was a lovely guy and a fine, brave jockey.”
Campbell’s brother Finlay is a professional rugby player with Glasgow Warriors.
His team-mate, Scottish international Rory Lamont, said: “Tragic, tragic news on the passing of jockey Campbell Gillies.
“Thoughts are with his brother Finlay, his family and those closest to him.”
Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, said: “Campbell was a very popular member of the weighing room and was immensely well liked by his colleagues.
“His riding career was just beginning to flourish and he had a great future ahead of him in horse racing.
“In March this year, he was able to celebrate a first winner at the Cheltenham Festival and there would undoubtedly have been many more days like that for him.
“It is so tragic that he has lost his life at such a young age when he had so much more to look forward to.”
Campbell was regarded as one of racing’s top emerging talents and won at Cheltenham riding Brindisi Breeze.
Tragically, the horse was killed last month after it jumped out of a paddock and was hit by a lorry.
Campbell won 131 races and rode 38 winners last season.
Before and after his race on Sunday, Campbell posted excited tweets about his trip. One read: “Riding out almost done – oneat Hexham today then Kavos tomorrow.”
On Monday, he tweeted his travelling companions – Henry, Nathan, Harry and Mark: “In the car, next stop KAVOS.”
As he waited at the airport, Mark, who works as head lad at the Arlary yard, posted: “In airport pinting it up!!!! Ready to go!!!”
He and his friends had joked about jumping into swimming pools just hours before his death.
His agent Paul Brierley tweeted Mark on Sunday: “Marko you will have to lock the balcony, Olympic diving team”
Mark replied: “Better had! No balcony over pool this year! B more splat than splash this time!!!”
Brierley insisted that Campbell had not been involved in jumping from balconies and that had nothing to do with the accident.
Beverley Racecourse held a one-minute’s silence and jockeys wore black armbands at yesterday’s meeting in tribute to Campbell.
Next page: Personal tribute from Daily Record pundit Garry Owen