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