The wife of an Army sergeant accused of attempting to murder her by sabotaging her parachute said today ‘everything went black’ as she plunged to earth from 4,000ft.
Victoria Cilliers instinctively knew ‘something wasn’t right’ soon after jumping from a plane before her parachute failed to open above Netheravon, Wiltshire on Easter Sunday 2015.
The skilled skydiver wrestled with her parachute and survived with a broken pelvis, broken ribs and fractured vertebrae and woke up in A&E with her husband Emile next to her.
She later told police the failure of two crucial loops within the parachute couldn’t be an accident ‘because slinks don’t break’, Winchester Crown Court heard.
Her husband, 37, who had affairs with a skydiver and his ex-wife, was arrested and is on trial for two counts of attempted murder.
He is accused of trying to kill her with a gas leak on March 30 2015 and when that failed allegedly tampering with the skydiving fanatic’s parachute six days later.
Victoria Cilliers (pictured yesterday) e said today ‘everything went black’ as she plunged down from 4,000ft after her husband Emile (right today) allegedly tampered with her parachute
Two slinks, which attach the lines of the canopy to the rest of the rigging, were missing from one side of the parachute, the court heard, and Mrs Cilliers and the prosecution says this means it couldn’t be an accident
In a police interview played to the jury today Mrs Cilliers said: ‘Straightaway I knew something was not quite right, it had a lot of twists and the canopy wasn’t floating.
‘I got out of the twists and one of the risers was wrapped around which is a packing issue. The canopy wasn’t flying properly so I made the decision to cut away the main.
‘I can’t remember if I pulled the reserve or it deployed automatically. Either or, I could feel the reserve fly and again straightaway I felt something wasn’t right and it was very twisted.
Mrs Cilliers admitted yesterday her husband’s cheating made her despise him and made her consider killing herself
‘The last thing I remember is trying to get some kind of control over it, trying to open as many cells as I could then everything went black, I do not know if it was the G force or the impact but everything cut out.’
Mrs Cilliers, an Army physiotherapist, said the chances of a main parachute failing was one in 750 jumps but for the reserve to fail as well was ‘one-in-a-million’.
Continuing her description of the reserve failure, she said: ‘I tried to deal with the situation as best I could which was trying to untangle it to get the twists out.
‘I’m trying to fly something that is spinning quite fast, it’s like a centrifuge, you end up facing the ground spinning quite rapidly.
‘I thought initially the main issue was the twist, it took me a while to untwist it, I had to use quite a lot of force using the whole body to unentangle the twists which I managed.
‘Then I couldn’t work out why I couldn’t get control, it was getting worse.’
Describing the moments after the impact, she said: ‘I know I opened my eyes and I saw the landing area, I saw a friend of mine who is a doctor and other personnel from the APA and Paul Cain, a doctor, and lots of other people around, that’s just a brief snapshot.
‘Another brief snapshot was inside the helicopter about to land and then I do not remember anything until seeing Emile in A&E.’
Emile Cilliers and wife Victoria Cilliers on their wedding day in South Africa (left). Shown right, defence barrister Elizabeth Marsh looks at a similar parachute at Netheravon Airfield in Wiltshire
Mark Bayada, the Army Parachute Association (APA) chief instructor at Netheravon, an expert witness for the prosecution, carried out a filmed demonstration using two different parachutes and took five minutes to carry out the sabotage
Yesterday she told jurors she exaggerated events around her 4,000ft near-fatal fall because she was ‘humiliated’ by her cheating husband’s deceit and was ‘out for his blood’.
Emile Cilliers, 37, is accused of trying to murder Mrs Cilliers, a keen skydiver and Army physiotherapist, by removing crucial parts of her parachute before the jump in April 2015.
She was sent hurtling towards the ground at 100mph when both her main and reserve chutes failed to deploy, suffering multiple injuries including a broken pelvis, broken ribs and fractured vertebrae.
Days earlier, Cilliers allegedly tried to tamper with a gas valve at their home in Amesbury, Wiltshire, in an attempt to trigger an explosion, the court has heard. Cilliers – who was having affairs with Austrian skydiver Stefanie Goller and ex-wife Carly Cilliers – allegedly wanted to get his hands on his wife’s £120,000 life insurance to pay off his debts.
Mother-of-two Mrs Cilliers, originally from Haddington, East Lothian, was able to walk into Winchester Crown Court unaided yesterday and stand throughout her time in the witness box.
Giving evidence for the first time, she admitted she had lied to police to get her own back on her husband.
She said: ‘In the statements what I said was an extreme reaction at the time … I was angry, very angry. I was out for blood.
‘I made it sound worse than it was because I was humiliated – I wanted him to suffer. I didn’t always tell the truth, no. I got to the point where the extent of his lies and deceit had been disclosed to me and I wanted to get my own back to a certain extent.’
She added: ‘I was truthful about the majority of it, but I was generous with some of the timelines.’
Victoria Cilliers gave evidence for the first time at Winchester Crown Court yesterday (left) and revealed she decided to leave everything to their children in 2014 – months before her husband (pictured in background) allegedly tried to kill her
Mrs Cilliers admitted she had exaggerated the amount of time her husband spent alone with her parachute at Netheravon Airfield in Wiltshire. It is during this time Cilliers is alleged to have removed two vital ‘slinks’ from the two parachutes.
‘In my first statement I said [he was gone] for a couple of minutes,’ she said. ‘The second I said over five minutes which was an exaggeration.
‘It was probably somewhere in the middle of that.’
The qualified skydiving instructor said her husband started parachuting in 2009, and she had taught him how to properly pack chutes.
Cilliers denies two counts of attempted murder and one of criminal damage recklessly endangering life.
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