Rio Ferdinand
Ex-England international Rio Ferdinand Reuters

The wife of footballer Rio Ferdinand has passed away following a short battle with cancer.

The Queens Park Rangers defender, 37, released a statement on Saturday (2 May) saying his "wonderful wife" Rebecca Ellison had "passed away peacefully" at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

The couple married in 2009 and have three children, aged nine, six and four.

Rio Ferdinand and late wife Rebecca Ellison
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand announced his wife, Rebecca Ellison, died from breast cancerQPR

In his statement, Ferdinand said: "My soul mate slipped away last night. Rebecca, my wonderful wife, passed away peacefully after a short battle with cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

"She was a fantastic loving mother to our three beautiful children. She will be missed as a wife, sister, aunt, daughter and granddaughter. She will live on in our memory, as a guide and inspiration.

"Myself, my parents Janice and Julian, along with Rebecca's parents Lesley and Stephen, would like to thank our families, friends and my club colleagues who have rallied around in these desperate days, weeks and months.

"I would also like to express my gratitude for the dedication and expertise of the staff led by Professors Johnston and Clarke at the Royal Marsden. Their valiant efforts to prolong Rebecca's all-too-short life will not be forgotten.

"Our grief, as a family, is total. We would appreciate being allowed to mourn privately."

Ferdinand thanked two members of staff in his statement: Professor Stephen Johnston, an expert in breast cancer, and Professor Peter Clarke, a consultant surgeon.

A number of famous patients have been treated at the Royal Marsden including former Beatle George Harrison, singer Dusty Springfield and reality star Jade Goody.