THE family of Hibernian footballer Erich Schaedler say there are still unanswered questions surrounding his death almost 30 years ago.
Schaedler, who was capped for Scotland and was signed for Dumbarton when he died in 1985, was found in his Volkswagen Passat in the Cardrona Forest in the Borders on Christmas Eve with a single shotgun wound to the head. His death was recorded as suicide.
However, a new book on the life of the player, who was 36 when he died, reveals that his family still believe he may have been the victim of foul play.
“I accept that suicide is a possibility, but in my opinion there are a lot of unanswered questions and I can’t rule out that he died as the result of foul play,” said his brother John Schaedler in Shades: The Short Life And Tragic Death Of Erich Schaedler, by Colin Leslie, who is sports editor of Scotland on Sunday’s sister paper, The Scotsman.
“Where they found him was not somewhere we had ever gone, which was odd,” said Schaedler. “What I found really strange was that his car had been completely covered with branches and foliage. Why go to all that trouble of covering the car?
“And another strange thing was that when we got the car back a few weeks after he died, there was absolutely no evidence that a gun had gone off in the car. No bullet holes – nothing – just a few little pin-sized holes in the roof lining. I am used to shooting, and I have to say it surprises me that there was not a lot more damage if a shotgun went off inside that car.”
Schaedler added that a number of things about the case did not ring true, including information he received about his brother’s life, and the fact that Erich’s flat was conspicuously clean when the family collected his belongings after his death.
“There are so many things that don’t ring true,” he said. “Afterwards I would start to hear all the stories: that he’s in debt, that he’s involved with the wrong people. People were contacting me and calling me up to Edinburgh. I got a call from an ex-CID officer. He was pushing it because Erich had helped his son in the hospital. He was told to drop it, but why were people higher up telling him to drop it?”
He added: “One other thing that bothers me is that when we got the keys to Erich’s flat, it was suspiciously clean. It looked like someone had deliberately tried to move things around.
“It didn’t look like Erich’s place at all, and I had been in all of his flats over the years to do odd jobs.
“It was like somebody had gone out of their way to hide something – it didn’t look like his usual messy bachelor pad.”
Schaedler, from Biggar, started his career at Stirling Albion in 1969 before moving to Hibs later that year. He was part of Hibs’ famous “Turnbull’s Tornadoes” side that won the Drybrough Cup then League Cup in 1972-73, and the Drybrough Cup in 1973-74.
In the late 1970s he moved to Dundee, where he collected his final medal for a First Division championship in 1978-79, before returning to Hibs in 1981. He was still playing senior football when he died.
His death shocked Scotland’s football community, where he had been a much loved figure, particularly at Hibs.
Dumbarton’s match against Alloa Athletic on 28 December was postponed, while a minute’s silence was observed before Hibs’ match against Clydebank.
Police said they have no plans to reopen the case.
Schaedler said: “To be fair to the police, they looked into it and there was a lot done. I felt like I was doing all the running about looking for answers, but unbeknown to me, the police did do quite a lot of investigating in the background.
“The police did come to me and said, ‘John, if you ever need anything we will try and help,’ but they didn’t seem to get anywhere either.”
Erich’s sister-in-law Beryl Schaedler said she shared her husband’s suspicions.
She said: “The guy from the garage came to John after the funeral and said, ‘I hope you don’t mind me saying this, John, but I can’t believe that someone would be able to cover the car with branches like that. He said there was no mark on the driver’s side whatsoever.
“He took the seat out, which was covered in blood, but he said that if someone had used a shotgun within the confined space of the car it would have damaged the interior – and yet there was no damage.
“We got the car back after it was cleaned and there was not anything to show that a gun had been fired.”
Schaedler added: “I know it all sounds very mysterious, but it has nagged me all these years that there is much more to Erich’s death. One of my reasons for speaking about it now and helping with this book is that I might finally get some answers.
“I just want to know the truth and I don’t feel I’ve ever fully had it yet. We are looking for some closure.”