Police rule out murder over skydiver death

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The Independent Online

The death of skydiver Stephen Hilder is no longer being treated as murder, police announced today.

The death of skydiver Stephen Hilder is no longer being treated as murder, police announced today.

Det Supt Colin Andrews, of Humberside Police, who led the inquiry, said: "I am satisfied that we are not looking for anyone else in connection with Stephen's death.

"However, it is now in the hands of the coroner to listen to the evidence we have gathered and establish a finding for Stephen's death."

The decision to re-classify the case as an unexplained death is linked to new forensic evidence which suggests the 20-year-old was responsible for cutting the cords on both his main and reserve parachutes, leaving him to plunge 13,000ft to his death.

Commenting on the decision, Stephen's father Paul Hilder said: "We are keeping an open mind regarding the circumstances surrounding Stephen's death."

Mr Andrews stopped short of declaring that Stephen committed suicide, saying that was a matter for the coroner.

But he gave details of the evidence on which today's announcement was based.

It centred on the results of tests carried out on fibres recovered from a pair of scissors retrieved from the boot of Mr Hilder's car.

Similar fibres were also found on clothing worn by Mr Hilder on the day he made the fatal parachute jump.

Humberside Police said in addition to the fibres, DNA work carried out on the scissors has found only one set of DNA and that belonged to Mr Hilder.

In a statement the force said: "We are not prepared to go into any more detail about these findings as this information will be discussed at length at the coroner's inquest.

"These forensic findings, in conjunction with the findings of the criminal investigation, have led police to believe that nobody else is involved in Stephen's death."

Mr Andrews defended the investigation, which led to several people being arrested.

He said: "Since Stephen died at Hibaldstow more than 10 months ago a huge amount of work has been undertaken by a team of dedicated officers.

"Our inquiries have taken us the length and breadth of this country as well as further afield and I can assure you that not stone has been left unturned.

"I was always confident that the hard work our officers have invested into this inquiry would pay off and it now appears that our investigations are coming to an end."

Detectives declared the investigation was a murder inquiry from the moment they discovered Mr Hilder's "rig" had been deliberately tampered with.

He plunged to his death last July while competing in a national skydiving contest at Hibaldstow, near Brigg, in Lincolnshire.

Detectives quickly found that cords on both his main and reserve chutes had been cut and launched a major murder inquiry, questioning dozens of witnesses.

They also arrested a number of people in connection with the inquiry.

The mother of one of the suspects, Adrian Blair said they were told last month he was no longer a suspect.

But she added that he has already dropped out of college due to the pressure he had faced.

Mr Blair, 20, and David Mason - who were Mr Hilder's friends, jumping partners and fellow students at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, near Swindon, Wiltshire - were arrested by police in October, three months after the tragedy at Hibaldstow airfield.

Mr Blair's mother, Hilarie, questioned why it took so long for the police to clear her son and his friend, Mr Mason, of Cambridge.

Mrs Blair said her son, who is now in Canada on an Army placement, had a "tremendous weight on his shoulders" after his arrest, which eventually caused him to give up his electrical engineering degree.

Speaking at the family home in Dobwalls, Cornwall, she said she had known that her son was innocent "from day one".