A DAD whose wife died during a family holiday in Peru ten years ago said police accused him of murdering his partner.
Rupert Riedl opened his heart for the first time ahead of the ten year anniversary of the death of his partner Bridget.
The 26-year-old from Cupar, Fife died in March 2003 after the family boat capsized.
The young mum was dragged under by torrential rapids as she fought to save the lives of her three children.
Rupert, now aged 42, was believed to have murdered his wife after a post mortem showed pesticides were present in Bridget’s blood – a find that led to her being exhumed six months after she was buried.
But he was cleared when investigators decided the toxins made their way into her system while she lay undiscovered for four weeks.
Rupert now lives with his family in Salzburg, Austria and said he has always had the support of Bridget’s parents.
The family-of-five had been on an eight month cross-continent adventure travelling from Canada to South America in a campervan.
Rupert – an author and raft instructor – had been on the 20ft wooden boat with his family after being reliably informed the Vilcanota river in Peru was safe.
The couple were there with children Yannik, Fabio and Olivia who are now aged 14, 12 and 11 respectively.
He said: “There was one rapid which we avoided but then the boat – for whatever reason – capsized and we all fell in.
“I had Olivia in a child-carrier on my back when we went into the water – I opened the carrier and she popped up.
“Bridget must have got the other kids but I never saw her – she didn’t come back up. I was sure that she was dead.”
Emergency workers combed a 30km stretch of the river to find the Scot but were unsuccessful – she was eventually found four weeks later by fishermen.
Bridget’s body was returned home to Salzburg where she had lived with Rupert for seven years in order to be buried.
But six months later Austrian prosecutors launched a murder probe when a Peruvian medical report found traces of alcohol and pesticide in her body.
Rupert added: “I told the police they could investigate whatever they wanted – they asked silly questions but I knew there was nothing to fear.
“It was so upsetting. They’d had some strange situations with people going missing and being murdered.
“Then the test results came from Peru and they exhumed her body more than six months later.
“It went on for a year with the police asking me questions and the newspapers writing about the investigation.
“I just tried to block it out and not let it get close to me.
“But when they said I had done nothing wrong it was not a feeling of relief – I had just lost my wife and my children had lost their mother.”
Rupert said he would not have been able to cope if it were not for the unwaivering support of Bridget’s parents Jim, 80, and Sandra, 64 who even moved to Austria in order to be closer to the family.
He added: “They stood by me. My parents-in-law told the police it was a very happy marriage and we were a happy family.”
Sandra – who works as a tour guide – plans to visit the grave of her daughter this week.
She said: “They [Rupert and Bridget] had a wonderful relationship – what happened was shocking.
“It is wonderful to be close to the grandchildren now – they are all we have left of our daughter.”
Rupert – who vowed to never marry again – even continues to take his children rafting and will give them a framed photo of their mum on the anniversary.
He added: “We love the outdoors and Bridget did as well. What happened was unlucky but it was not a a reason to change the life we love.
“She was a very artistic and open person who lived with a lot of love.”