Army sergeant Emile Cilliers guilty of trying to kill wife by tampering with her parachute
24 May 2018, 13:05
An army sergeant has been found guilty of tampering with his wife's parachute in an attempt to try to kill her.
Emile Cilliers had run up debts of around £22,000 and was plotting to gain access to his wife Victoria's life insurance payout.
The 38-year-old, from Amesbury, in Wiltshire, removed key parts of Mrs Cillier's reserve parachute before she took part in a 4,000ft jump at Netheravon Airfield on 5 April 2015.
A jury in a retrial at Winchester Crown Court convicted him of two attempted murder charges and a third count of damaging a gas fitting at their home, recklessly endangering life.
As a captain in the army, Mrs Cilliers had a love for skydiving. She worked as an instructor and competed nationally. It was just five weeks after giving birth that her husband came up with an elaborate plot to try to kill her.
The couple's relationship had started to go downhill. Cilliers had been having affairs during his wife's pregnancy, not only with a woman he met on the dating site Tinder, but also with his ex-wife. He had also made arrangements with prostitutes.
After buying his wife a ticket for the skydive, Cilliers messaged Stefanie Goller, the woman he was having an affair with.
He wrote: "So excited for tomorrow", to which she replied: "Tomorrow?" Cilliers said: "Buying tickets...the next step.
"Have I told you lately that I'm massively in love with the most amazing woman in the world? I want my life with you to start now."
Cilliers tampered with the parachute in the toilets at the airfield, removing the slinks which attach the harness to the lines.
As soon as she jumped out of the plane that day, Mrs Cilliers knew something was seriously wrong because the parachute "had lots of twists and the canopy wasn't floating".
She explained how the whole world went into free fall. Unable to control her main parachute, Mrs Cilliers cut it away. But as the lines became twisted, her reserve chute also failed to work properly and she went crashing to the ground.
It was a miracle that she survived, but she was left with serious injuries and spent a long period recovering in intensive care. Her parachute was so badly mangled that experts said they had never seen anything quite like it.
Cilliers also tried to gas his wife in the kitchen of the family home just a few days before the accident.
An engineer discovered a valve on a gas isolation unit in a cupboard next to the oven had been loosened, after Mrs Cilliers reported the smell of gas.
Cilliers owned the pliers used to start the leak and his dried blood was found on the pipe.
Over the years, Mrs Cilliers has given differing accounts of what happened and admitted that she exaggerated her claims to police after finding out about her husband's affairs.
She told the jury: "I was angry and I was hurting. I expanded [the truth] because I knew it would raise questions about the jump."
Following the incident, Victoria messaged her friends and her mother-in-law.
One of the messages read: "He's taken tens of thousands of pounds off me. He told his girlfriend we were separated and that [our son] wasn't his and that I had an affair. This is not just my opinion, he admitted it all to the police."
Cilliers will be sentenced at a later date.