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Suspected thief of Schumacher medical files found hanged in cell

ZURICH (Reuters) - A man suspected of leaking Formula One champion Michael Schumacher's medical files has been found hanged in his police cell, Zurich's cantonal prosecutor said in a statement.

The man, who was not named, worked as a manager at Swiss air rescue service Rega, which was involved in Schumacher's transfer from Grenoble hospital to University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV) on June 16 after he emerged from a coma.

Seven-time F1 winner Schumacher, 45, suffered severe head injuries in a ski accident in the French Alps late last year. His family - wife Corinna and teenage daughter and son live midway between Geneva and Lausanne - said they were "stunned and deeply shocked" to hear of the suspect's death, which was reported on Wednesday.

The French daily "Le Dauphine Libere" reported in early July that leaked documents being offered to European media for some 60,000 Swiss francs ($67,200) appeared to have come from the IP address of a computer at a Zurich-based helicopter company.

Rega lodged a criminal complaint on July 8 for the suspected leak of Schumacher's medical files, but said at the time it had no proof that one of its employees was implicated.

An investigation by Zurich's cantonal prosecutor led to the arrest of a Rega employee on Tuesday in connection with violating patient privacy and medical secrecy.

The man, who was due to be questioned on Wednesday, denied the allegations. The cantonal prosecutor said it had found no indication that a third party was involved in the death of the man.

"We at Rega are deeply saddened by the news of the death of our colleague," the air rescue service's chief executive Ernst Kohler told Reuters TV on Thursday.

Schumacher, who won a record 91 Grand Prix victories, left the sport last year after a disappointing three-year comeback with Mercedes following an earlier retirement from Ferrari at the end of 2006.

Officials said in a statement on June 16 Schumacher had emerged from his coma, but little is known about his current condition.

Schumacher's wife Corinna told visitors to a horse riding event he was slowly improving, German magazine Neue Post reported in July.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley, Alice Baghdjian and Arnd Wiegmann; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and John Stonestreet)

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