Army sergeant tried to murder wife by removing vital parachute parts, court told

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An Army sergeant attempted to murder his wife by removing vital parts of her parachute, causing her to spin thousands of feet to the ground, because he wanted to leave her for his Tinder lover, a court has heard.

Emile Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court accused of two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria Cilliers who suffered multiple serious injuries at Netheravon Airfield, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, on April 5 2015.

The 37-year-old is also accused of a third charge of damaging a gas valve at their home a few days earlier, in the second allegation that he attempted to kill his 40-year-old wife.

A damaged gas valve in the kitchen of Emile Cilliers
A damaged gas valve in the kitchen of Emile Cilliers (Wiltshire Police/PA)

Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, said that the murder bids came as Cilliers told his lover, who he met through the Tinder dating app, that he was leaving his wife, a physiotherapist for the army.

He said that the defendant had created a lie for his lover that he was leaving his wife, because he was not the father of one of his children, because his wife had been having an affair.

He added that the defendant, who was also having a sexual relationship with his previous wife, Carly Cilliers, had debts of £22,000 and he believed he would be set to receive a £120,000 insurance payout on her death.

Netheravon Army Parachute Centre
Netheravon Army Parachute Centre (Wiltshire Police/PA)

Mr Bowes said: "Victoria, known as Vicky, Cilliers, a highly-experienced parachutist and parachute instructor, was involved in a near-fatal parachute fall at the Army Parachute Association Camp at Netheravon, Wiltshire.

"When she jumped out of the plane at 4,000ft (1,200m), both her main parachute and her reserve parachute failed, causing her to spiral to the ground.

"Those attending at the scene expected to find her dead, although she was badly injured, almost miraculously she survived the fall.

"Those at the scene immediately realised that something was seriously wrong with her reserve parachute, two vital pieces of equipment which fasten the parachute harness were missing.

"Their absence inevitably meant the reserve parachute would fail and would send her spinning to the ground."

The different parts of a parachute
(Wiltshire Police/PA)

He continued: "The police investigation was widened to include the circumstances of a gas leak at Emile Cilliers' and Victoria Cilliers' home a few days before, and it was discovered that Emile Cilliers had deliberately caused a gas leak at the house just before he left the house to stay elsewhere."

Mr Bowes said that by the time of the two alleged murder attempts, Cilliers "cared little" for his wife and treated her with "callousness and contempt".

He said: "The prosecution case is Emile Cilliers attempted to kill her by means of a deliberate gas leak and within hours of that failed attempt, despite his complete disinterest by then to Victoria, he suggested that she might like to go parachuting the following weekend.

"The prosecution case is that he had by now decided to get rid of her permanently."

Cilliers, of Aldershot, Hampshire, denies two charges of attempted murder and one of damaging a gas fitting belonging to his wife, reckless to endangerment of life.