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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 10:40 GMT
Plane plunge death 'not suspicious'
Cessna 172
Charles Bruce fell to his death from a Cessna 172
Police have confirmed there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a former SAS soldier who fell from a plane flying over West Oxfordshire.

Charles "Nish" Bruce, who fell 5,000 feet to his death, had been a minder for comedian Jim Davidson.

An expert skydiver, the 46-year-old is thought to have jumped from the twin-seater Cessna 172 aircraft without a parachute into fields near the village of Fifield in Oxfordshire.

A post mortem examination revealed he had died from multiple injuries consistent with a fall from a plane.

The aircraft he was in had taken off from Spain on Tuesday and was bound for a private airfield at Hinton-in-the-hedges, Northamptonshire.

Mental illness

It was piloted by a woman understood to be Mr Bruce's girlfriend.

It has emerged that Mr Bruce, who left the SAS in the 1980's,wrote an autobiography called Freefall in 1998 under the pseudonym Tom Read.

Jim Davidson
Jim Davidson: "Lost a best mate"

In it he described his descent into mental illness after a career which included service in Northern Ireland and in the Falklands war.

It also told how he wanted to claim a unique world record by skydiving from the edge of space - jumping from a balloon gondola 26 miles from the ground.

But the record attempt was never carried out because of his deteriorating mental state.

At one point in the book he even described looking over at his girlfriend as they sat together in a plane and contemplating murdering her.

'Distressed state'

Mr Bruce's mother said it was a "complete mystery" why he had jumped from the plane.

"He was not depressed as far as I know.

"The whole family is in a complete state of distress."

The investigation is in its early stages and enquiries are still to be made before we can make any conclusions

Detective Inspector Simon Morton

Jim Davidson has also spoken of his devastation at the news and paid tribute to his former minder who he described as one of the bravest people he had ever met.

"I am absolutely devastated. We first met when he came out of the SAS and he was working on a show at which I was entertaining the troops," said Mr Davidson.

"We became very good friends and he worked for me for two or three years driving me around and doing security.

"I feel like I have lost one of my best mates. He was the man that everybody loved.

"He was a great soldier, a great family man and a great and loyal friend. He was one of the loveliest men I have ever known."

Accident experts

Mr Davidson added: "Nish could fly aeroplanes and helicopters and he was an expert skydiver.

"I have never known him to run away from anything and I just can't understand what happened."

Mr Bruce's girlfriend is now helping police piece together the sequence of events that led to his fall.

Detective Inspector Simon Morton, of Thames Valley police, said: "She is distraught and devastated following the tragedy that involved this man falling 5,000 feet.

"Air accident experts have also been examining the plane.

"The investigation is still in its early stages and there are a lot of enquiries still to be made before we can make any conclusions."

Before the tragedy, the pilot of the plane had been diverted to RAF Brize Norton, after she reported ice had formed on the wings.

Mr Bruce, who has a son, joined the SAS from the Parachute Regiment and a former colleague said he was the first special forces soldier to parachute into the Falkland Islands in 1982.

He is also believed to have been awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal.

An full inquest into Mr Bruce's death will be held later this year.

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