Berlin, Germany – A former vice-chancellor who was sacked three months ago by his party over offensive anti-Jewish remarks has apparently committed suicide by throwing off his parachute as he jumped 12,000ft from an airplane.
Jürgen Möllemann's boarded a plane at Marl-Lohmühle near Gelsenkirchen hours after police raided his house in a long-running probe centred on allegations of massive tax fraud.
Two witnesses told police they saw him ditch his parachute after he jumped from the aircraft holding nine other free-fall enthusiasts.
Mr Möllemann, 57, who was a keen parachutist from his days in an army paratrooper regiment and had made 500 jumps, died when his body slammed into a cornfield. It is understood his reserve parachute was still attached to him.
Friends say he knew the clock was ticking: the German parliament only removed his immunity from prosecution, hours before he died.
Last year Mr Möllemann criticized Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. In addition, prosecutors had been investigating whether he hid party donations that financed a campaign leaflet criticising the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.
When news of his death reached the Reichstag in Berlin, the huge flags that flutter on all four corners of the building were lowered to half mast. [scotsman]