A “very dangerous, coercive and manipulative” Army sergeant has been found guilty of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute and sabotaging a gas valve at their home.
A jury of nine men and three women convicted Emile Cilliers, 38, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, of two attempted murder charges and a third count of damaging the gas fitting recklessly endangering life, following a retrial at Winchester Crown Court.
The defendant showed no emotion as he was convicted unanimously on the two counts of attempted murder and by a majority of 10 to two on the criminal damage charge.
Victoria Cilliers, a highly experienced parachuting instructor, suffered near-fatal injuries when both her main and reserve parachutes failed when she took part in a jump at the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on Easter Sunday, April 5 2015.
Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector Paul Franklin, of Wiltshire Police, said: “The real danger with Emile Cilliers is he is cold, calculated, deliberate, and done for financial and sexual motives, and there was absolutely no consideration of his wife or anyone else, he serves his own needs and that makes him a very dangerous man.”
Describing the impact on Mrs Cilliers, Mr Franklin said: “I don’t think we can underestimate the ordeal that she has been put through.
“Physically she is well but obviously she is still traumatised.”
Hannah Squire, junior counsel for the prosecution, said: “The jury heard details of his coercive behaviour towards his wife and his continued manipulation of all the women in his life to satisfy his own desires, whether financial or sexual.
“He showed complete and utter contempt for his wife and this culminated in his desire to have her dead, whether that be to start a new life with his lover Stefanie Goller, benefit financially from the death of Victoria Cilliers, or both.”
The trial heard Cilliers, who had “out of control” debts racked up by taking his lover on expensive holidays, first attempted to kill his wife by tampering with a gas valve at their home in Amesbury, Wiltshire, at the end of March 2015.
After his wife discovered the gas leak, Cilliers, who was also in contact with prostitutes and seeing his former wife for sex, made a second attempt on Mrs Cilliers’ life by sabotaging both her main and reserve parachutes, causing her to fall 4,000ft to the ground, which she “miraculously survived”.
Michael Bowes QC said the defendant should be considered “dangerous” and added: “We submit the defendant has shown himself to be of quite exceptional callousness who will stop at nothing to satisfy his own desires, material or otherwise.”
Remanding the defendant in custody until sentencing on June 15, Mr Justice Sweeney said he would ask for a probation report to be prepared on Cilliers and added: “Because dangerousness plays such a significant part in this sentencing, it does seem to me that I ought, in fairness to the defendant, get a view.”