Accused in ‘parachute tampering’ trial called ‘manipulative’

Army sergeant Emile Cilliers arrives at Winchester Crown court. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Army sergeant Emile Cilliers arrives at Winchester Crown court. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
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An Army sergeant accused of tampering with his Scottish wife’s parachute in an attempt to kill her was “coercive” and “manipulative”, a court heard.

Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, accused Emile Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, of trying to make his wife Victoria feel guilty when she suspected he was having an affair and wrote about her fears on Facebook.

The court heard when he saw the message online he told Mrs Cilliers, originally from Haddington, East Lothain, he was “hurt” she suggested he was unfaithful to a “complete stranger”.

During cross examination at Winchester Crown Court on Tuesday, Mr Bowes said: “You were trying to make her feel guilty.”

Cilliers replied: “That’s your opinion.”

READ MORE: Cilliers accused of hiding financial trouble

When Mr Bowes said what she had written was “absolutely true”, Cilliers replied: “I can only remember the basic facts (of the conversation).”

Mr Bowes added: “Try to remember a basic fact like ‘I’m having an affair’.”

Cilliers admitted he was lying and Mr Bowes said: “It’s coercive and manipulative to make her feel bad.”

The defendant replied: “That’s your assumption.”

The 37-year-old defendant is charged with attempted murder after her parachute failed to open correctly in a 4,000ft jump at Netheravon Airfield on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, on April 5 2015.

The defendant denies attempting to murder his former Army officer wife by tampering with her hire kit in a toilet cubicle, allegedly twisting the lines of the main parachute and removing some slinks, nylon strips which fasten the parachute to the harness, from the reserve, sending Mrs Cilliers spinning to the ground.

READ MORE: Murder bid charge after parachute fails

Cilliers was questioned again about his finances and about the debts he owed to his wife.

Mr Bowes alleged he stood to gain substantially from a life insurance pay-out on her death, adding: “If she’s dead, unless you enforce (the repayment of the) debt yourself, it dies with her, doesn’t it?”

Cilliers replied: “If that’s your assumption, then yes.”

The South African, who is father to six children from various relationships, also denies a second attempted murder charge after there was a gas leak at their home in Amesbury, Wiltshire, a few days earlier, as well as a third charge of damaging a gas valve, recklessly endangering life.

After discussing the possibilities of how the leak could have occurred, Mr Bowes said: “There is of course a simple explanation.

“You gave it (the pipe) a jolly good wrench which opened it (and left the marks and cut your hand).”

Cilliers said: “That’s your assumption.”

Mr Bowes said: “But it would explain it.”

Cilliers replied: “That’s your assumption.