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Tributes after University of Kent student and West Ham Ladies footballer Katie Sheppard found dead at home

By Lizzie Massey

Tributes have poured in for a university student with a promising footballing career ahead of her found dead at home.

Katie Sheppard, described as popular and bubbly, was in her first year studying sports therapy at the University of Kent's Chatham campus.

The 20-year-old West Ham "fanatic" - who had recently broken into the side's first team ladies' squad - is believed to have taken her own life.

Tragic Katie Sheppard had broken into the first-team squad at West Ham Ladies

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed they are not looking for anyone else in connection with her death.

The university is now offering a counselling service for friends of Katie and fellow students affected by the tragedy.

A spokesman said: "We are saddened to learn of the death of Katie Sheppard, a student at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

"Our thoughts are with Katie's family and friends."

University of Kent student Katie Sheppard was found dead at home

Nicknamed "Shepps", she was an up-and coming player for West Ham Ladies.

She was described by a club spokesman as a "talented and popular member of the club" from the moment she joined from Charlton Women's Centre of Excellence.

The midfielder initially represented West Ham's U19 side and made four first-team appearances in 2012/13 before she took a break to concentrate on her university studies last season.

West Ham Ladies player Katie Sheppard took a break from football to study for a degree in Sports Therapy at the University of Kent

Julia Setford, director of football and Katie's coach, said everyone connected with the club had been left shocked and saddened by her death.

She added: "Katie was an absolute West Ham fanatic, she had a season ticket and it was her absolute ambition to play for West Ham Ladies.

"When she was at training, she was the bubbliest person and just fantastic to have around the club.

"Katie was a fantastic person and a lovely kid. It is such sad news for us all. The club will certainly be a lesser place without her."

Tributes to Katie Sheppard - known as Shepps - outside West Ham's stadium

Tributes poured in over social media, including tweets from West Ham, Arsenal and the FA.

A tribute page has been set up on Facebook called "Katie Sheppard 1994-2014", where more than 700 people have left messages of condolence.

Friend Paul Berry wrote: "Katie play on the left wing in heaven xx"

Kirrby Marie Gillis said: "Sweet dreams Katie."

And Samantha Randall Watkins said: "Very sad, my thoughts too are with Mrs Sheppard and her family xxx."

The West Ham badge is transformed into a tribute to Katie Sheppard. Picture: @Adam16WHU

Katie, from Sidcup, died on July 2. An inquest into her death was opened and adjourned on Thursday.

The results of a post-mortem examination are awaited.

Did you know Katie Sheppard? Leave your tributes below.

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