Wiltshire

Parachute trial: Emile Cilliers guilty of attempted murder

Victoria Cilliers and Sgt Emile Cilliers
Image caption Victoria Cilliers almost died in the parachute jump

An Army sergeant has been found guilty of trying to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute.

Victoria Cilliers, 41, survived the 4,000ft (1,220m) fall at Netheravon airfield in Wiltshire in April 2015.

Emile Cilliers was plagued with debt and needed his wife's life insurance money to start a new life with his lover, Winchester Crown Court heard.

He was also convicted of trying to kill his wife by causing a gas leak at the family home.

The 38-year-old had denied two counts of attempted murder.

Mrs 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.

The trial heard that Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps and an experienced parachute packer, tampered with equipment he knew his wife was going to use.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Cilliers tampered with his wife's parachute before the jump
Image copyright PA
Image caption The jump took place at Netheravon airfield in Wiltshire in April 2015

Lines to the main canopy were twisted and essential parts were missing from the reserve.

The court heard the equipment had never failed in this manner anywhere in the world.

Mrs Cillier's survival was described as a "near-miracle", with it put down to the soft soil of the ploughed field where she landed.

Her light weight was also attributed as a factor in helping to minimise her injuries.

Just days earlier, Cilliers had caused a gas leak at their home in Amesbury, Wiltshire, by loosening a gas valve fitting in a kitchen cupboard.

Jurors heard Cilliers was £22,000 in debt and believed he was set to get a £120,000 life insurance payout in the event of his wife's accidental death.

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Media captionProsecution barrister Hannah Squire said Cilliers was "cold and calculating"

He needed the money to pay off bills and start a new life with his lover, Stefanie Goller.

Cilliers was planning a new life with Ms Goller while also sleeping with his ex-wife Carly Cilliers, and arranging unprotected sex sessions with prostitutes.

The extent of his money problems was also revealed in messages sent between the married couple in December 2014 as their relationship began to break down.

Det Insp Paul Franklin, of Wiltshire Police, said Cilliers had shown "nothing but contempt" for his family.

'Heavy burden'

"On two separate occasions he made serious attempts to murder Victoria - one of these also endangered the lives of his two young children," he said.

"His selfish motives were simple - he believed that by killing Victoria his financial problems would be solved, his army career would continue with no danger of Victoria trying to damage it, and he could continue his illicit affair with his girlfriend.

"He has failed to accept any responsibility for his actions which reinforces our view that he is a cold, calculating and callous man whose only duty of care is to himself."

Mr Justice Sweeney said he would be seeking a report from the probation service to establish the "dangerousness" of the defendant.

"The burden now falls on me on what to do as far as this defendant is concerned, that too is a heavy burden," he said.

A date for sentencing has not yet been set.

The jury also convicted him of a third count of damaging a gas fitting recklessly endangering life.

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