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Aldershot army sergeant ‘sabotaged his wife’s parachute’

Army sergeant Emile Cilliers, 37, arrives at Winchester Crown Court to face trial today

An Army sergeant tried to murder his wife by sabotaging her parachute before she jumped 4,000ft out of a plane, in a bid to get £120,000 from insurance after starting an affair, a court heard today.

Emile Cilliers, 37, of Aldershot, Hampshire had days earlier allegedly damaged a gas fitting in the home he shared with his wife Victoria Cilliers, 40, in an attempt to kill her after meeting Stefanie Goller on dating app Tinder.

Winchester Crown Court heard when that failed, he suggested his wife – an experienced parachutist and instructor – go parachuting the next weekend.

But when Mrs Cilliers went to make the jump from the Cessna Caravan light aircraft, both her main and reserve parachute failed and she spun helplessly to the ground over Netheravon airfield on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

Mrs Cilliers survived the 4,000ft fall but was seriously injured – being left withbroken ribs, a broken collarbone, a broken leg and spinal injuries – and spent three weeks in hospital.

Witnesses thought she had died and realised immediately that something was very wrong with her reserve parachute.

The court heard two vital pieces of equipment – strips of material known as slinks which connect the harness to the parachute – were missing and without these the kit would fail.

A police investigation widened and officers then discovered a gas valve fitting in a kitchen cupboard near the cooker at their home had been deliberately damaged. 

Cilliers has pleaded not guilty to three charges

Cilliers, pictured in uniform with his wife Victoria

Cilliers (left, pictured at court; and right, with his wife) has pleaded not guilty to three charges

The jury was told Cilliers, who serves with the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, had started an affair with Miss Goller after meeting her on Tinder.

In Whatsapp messages to her, he lied that Mrs Cilliers, a physiotherapist who had previously served as an officer in the British Army, had given birth to a child that was not his but the result of an affair, the court was told.

The jury also heard that Cilliers was also involved in a sexual relationship with his ex-wife Carly Cillers.

South African-born Cilliers, who in 2015 had debts of around £22,000, allegedly believed he would receive £120,000 from an insurance policy in the event of his current wife’s death.

But, in December 2014, Victoria had changed her will, cutting her husband out, as she ‘did not have faith Cilliers would be able to manage the money himself’ – something he was ‘unlikely’ to have known about, the court was told.

Aldershot army sergeant 'sabotaged his wife's parachute'

Mrs Cilliers, pictured on another skydive, suffered multiple serious injuries in the fall in 2015

Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, said: ‘On April 5, 2015, Victoria, known as Vicky, a highly experienced parachutist and parachute instructor was involved in a near fatal parachuting fail at the Army Parachute Association Camp in Netheravon, Wiltshire. 

‘She jumped out of the plane at 4,000ft, her main parachute and 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 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 to the parachutist’s harness were missing.

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

Cilliers is said to have started an affair with Stefanie Goller (above) after meeting her on Tinder

Cilliers is said to have started an affair with Stefanie Goller (above) after meeting her on Tinder

‘The circumstances were such that police began criminal investigations into the possibility that Emile Cilliers had attempted to murder Victoria.

‘He deliberately removed vital pieces of equipment intending that she should be killed when the reserve parachute inevitably failed.

‘Subsequently the police investigation was widened to include a gas leak at Emile and Victoria’s home on March 28 to 29, 2015 a few days before.  

‘It was discovered that Emile Cilliers had deliberately caused a gas leak at the house before he left the house to stay elsewhere.’

The court heard Cilliers, who married Victoria in South Africa in 2011, was a competent skydiver, was trained to pack main parachutes and started a course on how to pack reserve parachutes but did not complete it.

The 37-year-old has served with the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers regiments since 2005

The 37-year-old has served with the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers regiments since 2005

Mr Bowes added: ‘On March 30, 2015, Emile attempted to kill Victoria by means of a deliberate gas leak.

‘Within hours of that failed attempt, despite his complete disinterest in Victoria, he suggested that she might like to go parachuting the following weekend.

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

In messages read out in court between Cilliers and Miss Goller, who he had been having a relationship with since November 2014, he lied that he moved out of the home he shared with Victoria in Amesbury, Wiltshire. 

In one of many messages to Miss Goller from Cilliers, he said: ‘I do not want anything to jeopardise us.’

He also said: ‘I am not going to lose you over this, you have no idea how much you mean to me.’

Mr Bowes added: ‘Text messages between Carly Cilliers, his ex-wife, and Emile Cilliers show it is quite apparent that are still continuing a sexual relationship.

‘It is not a criminal offence but in terms of attitude towards Victoria and how much he cared about her in relation [to suggesting] a parachute jump this is significant.’

Days before Mrs Cilliers’s near fatal parachute jump, she discovered a gas leak in the couple’s home.

The court heard Cilliers left the family home and drove to Army barracks in Surrey, telling Victoria he would avoid traffic the next morning.

But the following morning on March 30, Victoria contacted her husband and told him she smelled gas in the kitchen.

She discovered it was coming from a gas valve fitting in a kitchen cupboard next to the cooker.

Victoria, in a message to her husband read out in court, said: ‘Did you alter the gas lever into the cooker this am [sic] and there is dry blood around the lever.’

He replied: ‘That is weird. Is the stove working?’

The incident took place at Netheravon airfield, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire two years ago

The incident took place at Netheravon airfield, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire two years ago

She then answered: ‘No, I did not want to try. I’ve opened back door.’

The court also heard Mrs Cilliers jokingly asked her husband ‘Are you trying to kill me?’

Mr Bowes QC, reading from messages, said: ‘[Cilliers] says ‘Hey you cannot be serious about the comment you made, you have been saying that a lot recently. Why?’

‘The comment was, although she was joking, was ‘are you trying to kill me?’

‘She says ‘I read in a mag recently, brought it to the front of my mind. True life stories – my husband tried to kill me’.

‘He said ‘seriously?’ and she said ‘was only making a joke because of the blood on the handle, did not realise I was saying it a lot.”

Cilliers, who has served with the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineer regiments since 2005, denies two counts of attempted murder and criminal damage reckless as to whether it endangered life.

The trial, which is expected to last five weeks, continues.

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