Heartbroken: Community in mourning over tragic deaths of an ‘inspirational’ couple

Emma Oldfield & Jonathan Gray
Emma Oldfield & Jonathan Gray

Heartbroken friends and work colleagues of tragic honeymoon couple Emma and Jonathan Gray have spoken of their “incredible loss”.

Shock and grief over the much-loved couple’s deaths in a road accident on the Maldives on Saturday has engulfed the community.

Many had attended the couple’s wedding just the week before at St Bartholomew’s Church in Ripponden and cannot comprehend their promising futures have been wiped out. The 25-year-old pair, of Heath Lea, Halifax, leave behind their six-month-old baby boy Jake, who is currently with relatives.

Emma was described as a “model teacher” at Holy Trinity Primary School and Jonathan – known as Jay – was tipped to take over the kitchen business he worked for.

Liz Whetham, deputy head teacher at Holy Trinity, said they were planning a memorial and book of condolences. Pupils will also given bereavement counselling.

“We’re in complete disbelief and anguish. Emma was a huge part of school life and was loved by all.

“She was categorically one of the best teachers I have ever seen. She was creative and innovative. She loved the children and had an effervescent personality.

“Emma lit up every room she walked into. She was just incredible and inspirational to work with.

“She made everyone feel as if they were her best friend. The sense of loss as a school that we are feeling is immense.”

Emma taught years three and four but was also the school’s gifted and talented manager, library manager - organising library tea parties - and set up a summer school for the children.

Mrs Whetham said Emma was very excited about the wedding and honeymoon and at the school’s end of year service, pupils sang ‘Here comes the bride’ while Emma “skipped” up the aisle to receive a wedding gift.

Staff also attended a family barbecue on the day after the wedding to continue celebrations.

“Emma said: ‘I want to keep it going as long as possible’.”

School governor Rev Martin Russell said he was invited to watch one of Emma’s lessons as she was a “model teacher”.

“I was struck by her energy. She motivated the children and they were eager and interested. I came away from the lesson breathless. She was that kind of person.”

Jonathan had worked for kitchen company Nobilia GB Ltd in Mytholmroyd since he was 19, progressing from a junior CAD designer to a manager.

His boss, managing director Keith Barker said losing him was like losing a son or brother.

“He will be irreplaceable. He was everything to everybody here. He was the king pin to the business. I really don’t know what we are going to do without him.

“Jay, without a doubt, would have been the guy to take on the running of this business.

“Over the years he became the best member of staff we have ever had.

“There are very few people like Jay. For such a young man, he was absolutely dedicated. The way he committed himself to work, he was just a one-off.”

Mr Barker was also at the couple’s wedding the week before.

“They were so in love. You could just see the two of them together - they would have been together forever.

“Jay is such an old-fashioned guy for such a young man, you knew that everything for both of them was mapped out for a great future.

“I’m just in shock, like everyone else is.

“This is such a tragedy of epic proportions because of the type of people they both were.”

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