Light aircraft pilot in cliff crash horror may have killed himself deliberately

A pilot who died when his light aircraft plunged into cliffs may have deliberately taken his own life.

Former Royal Navy officer Andrew Stillwell-Cox died when his plane crashed close to RAF Portreath just minutes after taking off at nearby Perranporth airfield, in Cornwall, on Saturday.

Emergency services found the burning wreckage dangling precariously close to the cliff edge at Sheep Rock, surrounded by pockets of fire.

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Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed yesterday that suicide is one of the lines of inquiry being pursued by detectives.

A force spokesman said: “Police scene investigators are working together with the fire service. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch are also doing their own investigation.”

The plane took off from Perranporth airfield at 4.05pm on Saturday and crashed shortly afterwards.

A major rescue operation was launched involving a search and rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose, Devon and Cornwall Police, Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and Falmouth Coastguards. Nobody else was thought to have been in the aircraft and there were no casualties on the ground.

The family of Mr Stillwell-Cox, who was 55 and came from the St Austell area of Cornwall, paid tribute to the “highly respected” former Royal Navy officer. “He was highly respected and lived his life for the Navy,” they said in a statement.

“On retirement he qualified as a private pilot flying out of RAF Spitfire Station at Perranporth where he was very highly thought of.

“Andrew was generous and greatly supportive of his friends and they will miss him enormously.

“He was the stalwart of the Spitfire Society having organised this year’s major events at Polesden House, near Dorking, Surrey, in celebration of the Spitfire and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.”