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Mystery remains over former soldier who fell 14 floors to his death

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 17, 2013

By Tom Bevan

A FORMER soldier who fell 14 floors to his death in Brazil had been convinced someone was trying to kill him just hours before, an inquest heard.

Robert Prior, 48, was seen by neighbours in just his underpants looking "scared and sweating" shortly before he fell from the top of the apartment block in Sao Paolo. He had earlier claimed his girlfriend had been kidnapped and that someone was trying to kill him. But his sister, who lives in Honiton, believes he may have suffered a flashback from being pistol-whipped by a gang that forced him to flee Thailand less than three months earlier.

The inquest at County Hall in Exeter heard how the body of the timeshare salesman, who had been living in Brazil since the end of January, was found just after 5am after he had returned from a restaurant party. A chair was pushed against an open window in the gym on the 14th floor, although his sixth-floor flat remained locked.

Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland said there was not enough evidence to prove if he had committed suicide or had been murdered. In giving an open narrative verdict she acknowledged the issues in providing answers for Mr Prior's family.

She said: "I am prepared to reach a conclusion but that does not mean I am able to be definitive in what I think caused his death. Shortly after midnight on March 9, 2007, Mr Prior expressed fears for his life. There were military police present at the time and he was accompanied to a restaurant.

"Upon his return in the early hours of March 9 he then fell through an open window in the gym and suffered fatal injuries. He was fully clothed and not under the influence of hallucinary drugs. I am not satisfied he killed himself nor is there sufficient evidence to say he was unlawfully killed. The cause of his death must remain an open question."

After the hearing two of Rob's sisters, Jeanette Anderson and Cindy Zarczynski, from Honiton, described him as 'gregarious and full of life'.

"He was like a cat with nine lives," said Cindy. "He was going to that bar in Bali on the night it was bombed. They were blown out of their beds by the blast.

"And he was in Phucket when the Tsunami happened and survived. He was a bit of a charmer and never settled despite being married a couple of times.

"He won a baton for being the best recruit in the Royal Artillery and left the army after nine years to work as a surveyor in Libya. He had itchy feet.

"If he wanted to commit suicide he could have done it from his own balcony. He would not have had to squeeze through a small window on the 14th floor.

"We think he suffered a flashback on the night he died from that experience in Thailand. He would never go out in just his pants and without a shirt on.

"We have our own thoughts as to what happened to make him so scared."

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