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Base jumper who defies the City limits 'for kicks'

IT ALL happened so quickly - which is the normal state of affairs for base jumpers such as Russell Powell who actively seek a life in the fast lane.

One minute Mr Powell was inside City of London magistrates' court answering charges connected with low-level parachute jumps at London landmarks, the next he was outside on the steps sizing up the nearby NatWest tower for a possible future escapade.

Mr Powell, 23, is one of eight base jumpers in Britain who relish the 'adrenalin kick' associated with parachuting from buildings and other structures. In 1990 he jumped 112 feet (34 metres) from the whispering gallery at St Paul's cathedral because, he said, 'it's such a great building'.

Yesterday, George Croston, for the prosecution, admitted the charge relating to that incident was 'out of time' when it was made. He might also have added that it appeared to be out of date.

Culled from the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act of 1860, the charge was concerned with 'indecent, notorious or violent behaviour' and the possibility that it might, among other things, 'molest, let disturb, vex or . . . misuse' any preacher.

However, a second charge relating to 'climbing on or being upon any of the girders or parapet' of Tower Bridge in order to make an alleged jump last June still stands. But the prosecution said that this, too, might be withdrawn. Mr Powell yesterday entered a not guilty plea. A provisional trial date has been fixed for 24 November.

After the hearing, Mr Powell stood outside the court in Queen Victoria Street eyeing up the 600ft NatWest Tower. 'I've been looking at that for ages,' he said. 'It would take a lot of getting up, though.'

The word 'base' is an acronym derived from the first three letters of the objects parachutists must jump from to join the exclusive club - a building, an aerial, a span and an earth-bound object such as a mountain.

The short space of time in which jumpers have to open their parachutes means that there is no room for error, adding to the thrill of the sport.

Earlier this year, Mr Powell was with fellow jumper Darren Newton when he leapt to his death from the 28-storey Hilton Hotel in Park Lane.

Mr Powell said he started jumping from aircraft in 1986 and was initiated into base jumping in 1988. 'A long life might not be good enough, but a good life is long enough,' he said.

'When you're suspended by 250 square feet of nylon, intense terror is transformed into intense elation.' He was asked by reporters whether he had a death wish. 'I have talking to you lot,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)