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Lord Steel’s son ‘devastated’ following death of friend who took ill at his birthday party

Claire MacCabe died after taking ill on Saturday

The son of the former Liberal leader Lord Steel of Aikwood said he was “devastated” following the death of a woman who fell ill while guests were using a hot tub at his home.

Claire MacCabe, 44, became unwell during a party at the rural property on Saturday evening and died later in hospital.

She and her husband Matthew, 45, were close friends of Graeme Steel, who was hosting a birthday party after turning 52 on Friday.

He issued a statement saying: “The tragic death of Claire MacCabe has left me, my family and friends devastated.

"Matt has lost his wife and their child has lost their mother; words cannot express how we all feel by this loss.”

He added that the MacCabe family and their friends should be left in peace to “deal with this awful situation”.

Police Scotland said the death was being treated as “unexplained” but not suspicious, and their inquiries were continuing.

Graeme Steel was hosting friends at a weekend party

Mrs MacCabe, a mother-of-one, was with other guests at the cottage near Stow, Selkirkshire, in the Scottish Borders.

One friend described her as “the life and soul of the party”, while another added: "Everyone is devastated and still cannot believe what has happened.  Everything was fine and relaxed and then this happens.

"I’ve been told she died of natural causes. Claire was good fun to have around and it is a tragedy what has happened. We all feel so sorry for her husband and young son."

Her husband declined to comment at the family home in Haddington, East Lothian. Mrs MacCabe is understood to have hailed from Northern Ireland but had lived in Scotland for several years.

Mr Steel runs a construction and landscaping business based in Stow. His father, Lord Steel, 80, an MP for 32 years, lives 15 miles away from his son near Selkirk.

Lord Steel was an MP for 32 years

Credit:
PA/lord steel

He led the Liberal Party from 1976-1988, was involved with its merger with the SDP to form the Liberal Democrats and was the first presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament between 1999 and 2003.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We are investigating after a 44-year-old woman took unwell at an address in Stow during the evening of September 1, before passing away at the Royal Infirmary later that night. The death is currently being treated as unexplained but not suspicious and inquiries are continuing.”

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