'Very dangerous' Army sergeant tampered with parachute in bid to murder wife

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 38-year-old Emile Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, of two attempted murder charges and a third count of damaging the gas fitting 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 whose husband Emile Cilliers was found guilty of trying to murder her (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Victoria Cilliers whose husband Emile Cilliers was found guilty of trying to murder her (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Victoria Cilliers, a highly experienced parachuting instructor, suffered near-fatal injuries when both her main and reserve parachutes failed as she took part in a jump at the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on Easter Sunday April 5 2015.

Mr Justice Sweeney thanked the jury for fulfilling their duty "with distinction" and told them: "The burden now falls on me on what to do as far as this defendant is concerned. That too is a heavy burden."

The judge added that he would have to consider the "dangerousness" of the defendant and said: "It may well be that I may need a report from an expert probation officer on this but as the judge who has presided over this case twice, you may imagine I have my own views."

Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector Paul Franklin, of Wiltshire Police, described Cilliers as "cold and calculated" and a "very dangerous man".

Saying that he could easily have escaped being caught for the attempts on his wife's life, he said: "He tried very hard, it was due to due diligence of the staff at the Army Parachute Association who brought it to our attention but it could have passed off as an accident should they have not been so diligent.

"So it was certainly calculated and there was the opportunity of him getting away with it."

Describing the impact on Mrs Cilliers, Mr Franklin said: "I don't think we can underestimate the ordeal that she has been put through.

"She has been made to give evidence twice, and again on top of all the physical and emotional trauma that she suffered from that horrendous fall where it is only a miracle really that she survived.

"Physically she is well but obviously she is still traumatised and there is a long way for her to go. It's a very difficult time for her and has been and will continue for a while, I would imagine."

He added: "I think 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 in my opinion."

Hannah Squire, junior counsel for the prosecution, said Cilliers used "coercive and manipulative behaviour" to satisfy his sexual and financial needs.

She said: "It became apparent early on in the investigation, the only possible cause for the failure of both the main and the reserve had to be down to deliberate human intervention.

"The evidence all pointed to Emile Cilliers, the man with the motive and the opportunity to commit these cold and calculated attempts to murder his wife.

"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.

"We hope this conviction will allow VC to move on with her life. We do not doubt the ordeal the investigation and trial have been for her and her family and we further hope that, as far as possible, she can put this behind her."

Cilliers is to be sentenced on a date to be set.

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