Tuesday 17 October 2017

Man accused of attempting to murder wife with 'parachute tampering' was 'unemotional' during airfield visit

File photo dated 03/10/2017 of Army sergeant Emile Cilliers who accused of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute was
File photo dated 03/10/2017 of Army sergeant Emile Cilliers who accused of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute was "unemotional and bewildered" when he visited the airfield the following day, a court has heard. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of Victoria Cilliers tampered with parachute. Emile Cilliers faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of Victoria Cilliers tampered with parachute. Emile Cilliers faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of Victoria Cilliers tampered with parachute. Emile Cilliers faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Emile Cilliers (centre) arrives at Winchester Crown court where he is on trial for the attempted murder of his wife Victoria after her main parachute failed to open during a 4,000ft jump. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a kitchen cupboard in the home of Emile Cilliers, where he allegedly damaged a gas valve in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of general images detailing the different parts of a parachute. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a damaged gas valve in the kitchen of Emile Cilliers, which he allegedly damaged it in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers (the top arrow shows damage to a nut made by a pair of pliers found in a toolbox located in the utility room).Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of the kitchen in the home of Emile Cilliers, where he allegedly damaged a gas valve (in the cupboard shown by the arrow) in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a damaged gas valve in the kitchen of Emile Cilliers, which he allegedly damaged it in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers.Wiltshire Police/PA Wire

Ben Mitchell

An Army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute was "unemotional and bewildered" when he visited the airfield the following day, a court has heard.

Emile Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court on two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria Cilliers, who suffered multiple serious injuries at Netheravon Airfield on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, on Easter Sunday - April 5 - 2015.

Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of Victoria Cilliers tampered with parachute. Emile Cilliers faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of Victoria Cilliers tampered with parachute. Emile Cilliers faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire

The 37-year-old is also accused of a third charge of damaging a gas valve at their home a few days earlier in the second allegation that he attempted to kill his 40-year-old wife. He denies all three charges.

The court was told that the day after the incident, the defendant visited the airfield and met Mark Bayada, who has been chief instructor of the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon since 2013.

In his third day of giving evidence to the court, Mr Bayada said he had said in his police statement that Cilliers had appeared "unemotional" and "bewildered" during the visit.

He added that Cilliers had seemed "very quiet" and "in shock", but added that he did not know him very well personally.

Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of Victoria Cilliers tampered with parachute. Emile Cilliers faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of Victoria Cilliers tampered with parachute. Emile Cilliers faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire

He said that after further investigations by his staff, a decision was made later that afternoon to contact the police about the parachute malfunction.

The prosecution allege that the main parachute was tampered with and Cilliers removed two slinks from the reserve which are used to attach the harness to the rigging.

Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a kitchen cupboard in the home of Emile Cilliers, where he allegedly damaged a gas valve in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a kitchen cupboard in the home of Emile Cilliers, where he allegedly damaged a gas valve in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers. Wiltshire Police/PA Wire

He said that the landing area had been searched for the missing parts, including 45 people searching a week after the incident.

The court was told that witness James Lowrey saw Mrs Cilliers' parachute "collapse in on itself" and compared it to a "quilt with a weight attached".

Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a damaged gas valve in the kitchen of Emile Cilliers, which he allegedly damaged it in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers (the top arrow shows damage to a nut made by a pair of pliers found in a toolbox located in the utility room).Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a damaged gas valve in the kitchen of Emile Cilliers, which he allegedly damaged it in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers (the top arrow shows damage to a nut made by a pair of pliers found in a toolbox located in the utility room).Wiltshire Police/PA Wire

His statement, read to the jury, said: "I would surmise it's a line-over, which I have experienced myself before.

"The whole canopy was distorted, I have not seen anything like it before."

Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a damaged gas valve in the kitchen of Emile Cilliers, which he allegedly damaged it in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers.Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Wiltshire Police of a damaged gas valve in the kitchen of Emile Cilliers, which he allegedly damaged it in an attempt to kill his wife Victoria Cilliers.Wiltshire Police/PA Wire

He also described how "it appeared to be wrapped around itself, the lines were clear to the jumper".

Responding to the description, Mr Bayada said it appeared that Mrs Cilliers was not entangled in the main parachute and "was stable at the time of deployment".

Mr Bayada was asked by Elizabeth Marsh QC, representing Cilliers, if he felt there had been "no effort" by Mrs Cilliers to "kick-out" of the twists in the lines or use the brakes in the malfunctioning parachute.

He said: "In my mind, most likely, there was another problem, something stopping being able to release the brakes.

"It might be a legal thing but to me no effort means not even bothering. To me it suggests for a reason, they didn't take control, but not that it was no effort."

Mr Bayada said that weight of a jumper would not affect the outcome of a malfunction.

The court has heard that Mrs Cilliers is of petite stature.

He said: "When it's a malfunction, it's a malfunction and even the lightest person is going to die if they do not do anything about it. When it's not working, it's not working and it's irrelevant."

Mr Bayada said that he and his colleagues had followed the procedures set out by the British Parachute Association following a parachute accident but said he had not taken photographs or video at the scene to protect Mrs Cilliers' privacy.

He said: "Should someone still be living, I would take offence if people were taking photographs. If I had seen someone with a camera, I would have had a word with them."

He said that as soon as it was clear that Mrs Cilliers was alive, the priority was to "get her medical help".

"Then it was to have an initial look at what happened because what happened to her was very unusual which I have never seen before in my whole time jumping, so when we were to start jumping again it would be safe for all the other club jumpers," he said.

Mr Bayada said he carried out a thorough search for the missing slinks and said: "I was still trying to find out in my mind a parachuting reason why this could happen.

"I was looking for missing slinks, I was looking for missing slinks, I was looking for parachuting damage or what slinks weren't there."

He said that the Safire 149 parachute used by Mrs Cilliers was a "high performance" parachute which was "more fun" to handle and one which would not be issued to normal club jumpers, but added that she was experienced at using it.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday, when the jury will take part in a court visit to Netheravon Airfield.

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