‘Parachute murder bid’ husband ‘wanted to be rid of’ wife, court told
Victoria Cilliers was seriously injured in a ‘near-fatal’ plunge when her parachutes failed to open.
The retrial of an Army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute has heard that he was having two affairs as well as “contact with a number of prostitutes” at the time of her “near-fatal fall”.
Emile Cilliers, 38, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, faces two charges of attempted murder and a third count of damaging a gas fitting recklessly endangering life at Winchester Crown Court.
The serving soldier with the Royal Army Physical Training Corps is accused of sabotaging his wife’s main and reserve parachute and a few days earlier tampering with a gas valve at the family home in Amesbury, Wiltshire.
Victoria Cilliers suffered serious injuries when her main and reserve parachutes failed during a jump at the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on Easter Sunday, April 5 2015.
Mr Justice Sweeney told the jury of nine men and three women that the case was a retrial and added: “The fact the previous jury was unable to reach verdicts is wholly irrelevant to your decisions.”
Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, told the court that Cilliers held his wife “in contempt” and wanted to “get rid of her permanently”.
He explained that at the time he was carrying out an affair with a woman called Stefanie Goller as well as having a “sexual relationship” with his ex-wife Carly Cilliers and had “contact with a number of prostitutes”.
He was also £22,000 in debt and believed he was set to receive a £120,000 insurance payout in the event of her accidental death, Mr Bowes said.
When she jumped out of the plane at 4,000ft, both her main parachute and her reserve parachute failed, causing her to spiral to the ground Prosecution
Mr Bowes explained that Victoria Cilliers survived the fall after her main and reserve parachutes failed, vital components were missing prompting the allegation that they had been sabotaged.
He said: “Victoria Cilliers, a highly-experienced parachutist and parachute instructor, was involved in a near-fatal parachuting fall at the Army Parachute Association Camp at Netheravon.
“When she jumped out of the plane at 4,000ft, both her main parachute and her reserve parachute failed, causing her to spiral to the ground.
“Those attending the scene expected to find her dead.
“Although she was badly injured, almost miraculously she survived that fall.
“Those at the scene immediately realised something was wrong with her reserve parachute, two vital pieces of equipment which fix the parachute to the parachutist’s harness were missing and their absence meant her reserve parachute would inevitably fail and the parachutist would just spin to the ground.”
He said the defendant was a “competent skydiver” trained in packing reserve parachutes.
Mr Bowes said a week previously, Cilliers had “deliberately caused a gas leak” at his family home while he was staying elsewhere in an earlier failed bid to murder his wife.
He added: “He wanted to be rid of her and wanted to live his life on his own terms.
“He cared nothing for her and in truth cared only for himself.
“He had decided to get rid of her permanently.”
Cilliers denies the charges and the trial continues.