Girlfriend pays tribute to murdered skydiver

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The girlfriend of Stephen Hilder - the skydiver, who plunged to his death after his parachute was sabotaged - spoke for the first time yesterday about her grief, paying tribute to "a bright, lively, funny guy".

Ruth Woodhouse said the murder of her boyfriend had devastated her and his family, as well as the skydiving, theatre and Army communities.

"Somebody has taken this sparkly person from the world in the most awful way," said Ms Woodhouse, who is a student at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham, near Swindon, Wiltshire.

Mr Hilder, a 20-year-old Army cadet, died after plunging 13,000ft at Hibaldstow airfield in north Lincolnshire on 4 July.

Detectives revealed that the cord on his main parachute had been deliberately severed as well as the strapping on his reserve chute, and have launched a murder inquiry.

Ms Woodhouse, 24, was not present when Mr Hilder died. She met him in January 2003 and said he was so passionate about his skydiving that he would get "withdrawal symptoms" if he had not jumped for a few days.