Sergeant faces murder bid retrial

Emile Cilliers, 37, leaves Winchester Crown Court. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Emile Cilliers, 37, leaves Winchester Crown Court. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

An army sergeant is to face a retrial on charges of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute after the first jury failed to reach verdicts.

Emile Cilliers, 37, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, denied two charges of attempted murder and a third count of damaging a gas fitting.

Victoria Cilliers, a parachuting instructor from Haddington, East Lothian, suffered near-fatal injuries after both her main and reserve parachutes failed when she took part in a jump at the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015.

The jury, depleted from 12 to ten jurors by “stress-related illness”, sent a note to the judge stating they would be unable to reach verdicts. The development came after a seven-week trial at Winchester Crown Court.

They had previously “publicly defended” themselves by denying there had been bullying in their deliberating room.

Mr Justice Sweeney discharged the forewoman and another female juror after they fell ill.

He told them in a direction that their deliberations “must remain within the proper bounds of discussion, and not amount to improper pressure or bullying”.

In response, the ten jurors, who began their deliberations on November 14, produced a note stating: “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.

“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 stating 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 it was not as a result of something having gone wrong hence my direction to you yesterday 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.”

Mr Justice Sweeney released Cilliers on conditional bail until the retrial on the three counts which he denies is held on an unconfirmed date.