The jury in the trial of an army sergeant accused of trying to kill his wife by tampering with her parachute today complained after they believed their ‘integrity’ had been questioned by the judge.
Two jurors at the Emile Cilliers’ trial at Winchester Crown Court were yesterday discharged after they were diagnosed with stress related illnesses and were taken for treatment by doctors.
Mr Justice Sweeney said they had become unwell with ‘stress-related illnesses’ and told the remaining ten their deliberations ‘must remain within the proper bounds of discussion, and not amount to improper pressure or bullying’.
In response, the 10 remaining jurors, who began their deliberations on November 14, wrote him a group note defending themselves.
Jurors considering the case of Emile Cilliers, 37, (pictured today) who is accused of twice attempting to murder his wife Victoria, 42, (pictured outside court), have complained to a judge about what he has said about them
It read: ‘Following yesterday’s further direction, the jury returned to the deliberation room to read and discuss the direction as discussed.
‘The jury unanimously agreed no such bullying had taken place, we then proceeded to further deliberations in the time remaining.
Mr Justice Sweeney, one of Britain’s most experienced crown court judges, warned yesterday about ‘improper pressure or bullying’ in the jury room
‘After our dismissal for the day, a number of jurors were contacted by friends and family who became aware of press reporting implicating bullying.
‘Collectively we feel we have had no opportunity to defend ourselves and our integrity which has further implications on us personally and professionally.’
Mr Justice Sweeney responded by saying in a further direction that his comments had not ‘suggested any bullying had been going on’ but had been intended ‘to flush it out if it had’.
He told them: ‘The direction I gave you yesterday afternoon was against the background that I had discharged two of your original number as they were suffering stress-related illnesses and medical evidence showed they were not fit to continue.
‘Having to discharge jurors while they are deliberating for stress-related illnesses is very rare. It may happen at one end of the spectrum through sheer bad luck or, at the other end of the spectrum, it may happen because something has gone wrong with the way the deliberations were being conducted.
‘The law is clear that in these circumstances I had to make sure that it was not as a result of something having gone wrong, hence my direction to you yesterday afternoon in which you will have noted it was not suggested any bullying had been going on but it was intended to flush it out if it had.
‘All enquiries that I have been able to make this morning indicated that the media, for their part, simply and faithfully reported, either in whole or in part, my direction.
‘Any report that reached you suggesting any adverse implication in any of the media reporting was misconceived and must be ignored and which you have now made clear that you unanimously agree that there has not been any bullying and have thus publicly defended yourselves and your integrity, albeit that was not in fact required.
‘You must now put this episode completely behind you and when continuing your deliberations you must do so by way of a careful, dispassionate consideration of the evidence.’
Ms Cilliers, pictured with her husband, survived the fall after the parachute failed to open properly in a 4,000ft jump
Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, is accused at Winchester Crown Court of two counts of attempting to murder Victoria Cilliers while having two affairs.
Mrs Cilliers, a highly experienced parachuting instructor, suffered near-fatal injuries when she took part in a jump at the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on April 5 2015.
Cilliers, 37, is accused of sabotaging her main and reserve parachute and a few days earlier tampering with a gas valve at the family home in Amesbury, Wiltshire.
The defendant denies two counts of attempted murder and one of criminal damage to the gas valve recklessly endangering life.
He suggested in court that a ‘stranger’ may have tampered with his wife’s parachute and denied tampering with the gas fitting.
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