Skydiver talked about committing the perfect murder, girlfriend says

Wesley Johnson
Saturday 19 March 2005 01:00 GMT

The skydiver Stephen Hilder, who plunged 13,000ft to his death in sabotaged equipment, talked about committing the "perfect murder" on numerous occasions, an inquest has heard.

Mr Hilder, 20, an Army cadet, fell to his death at Hibaldstow airfield, north Lincolnshire, in July 2003 while competing in the British Collegiate Championships, after straps on both his main and reserve parachutes were cut.

His girlfriend, Ruth Woodhouse, told the inquest in Scunthorpe that Mr Hilder was forensically aware and that they had numerous discussions about how to commit the perfect crime. Miss Woodhouse, who has a postgraduate degree in forensic engineering and science, said she had told him it was not possible.

Following a 10-month murder inquiry, Humberside Police said DNA taken from a pair of scissors found in Mr Hilder's car showed that they had been used to cut the straps on his parachute and that only Mr Hilder's DNA was found on them. Miss Woodhouse, 25, of Stafford, said: "If he was going to stage something then he wouldn't just chuck the scissors in the back of the boot."

She said they had been in a "light-hearted, relaxed relationship" for around five months before his death. When asked by coroner Stewart Atkinson whether she thought Mr Hilder may have committed suicide, she said: "There is no way, there is just no way."

The inquest also heard from Adrian Blair, of Dobwalls, Cornwall, who was with Mr Hilder on his final jump. A statement from Mr Blair, who was arrested on suspicion of murder but subsequently cleared, was read to the inquest.

The 21-year-old, who has now left the Army and lives in California, said that during a car journey two months before his death, Mr Hilder had told him that if he was going to commit suicide, he would want to jump out of a plane.

He said: "We agreed that would be the best way to die rather than in a road accident or by shooting yourself."

The hearing was adjourned until Monday.

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