Ex-SA man guilty of trying to kill wife – twice
South African-born soldier found guilty in the United Kingdom of attempting to murder his wife.
A South African-born soldier was found guilty yesterday in the United Kingdom of attempting to murder his wife by sabotaging her parachute.
British Army sergeant Emile Cilliers‚ 38‚ was convicted at the Winchester Crown Court of two attempted murder charges and a third count of damaging a gas valve at the home he shared with his wife‚ Victoria.
The couple married in 2011 at the Twelve Apostles Hotel‚ in Cape Town‚ but four years later Victoria, an experienced skydiver, was almost killed when her main and reserve parachutes failed during a 1 200m jump.
The other attempted murder conviction related to an incident in which Cilliers caused a gas leak in the couple’s house to blow up his wife.
The prosecution argued that the father of six’s motive was to claim a £120 000 (R2-million) life insurance payout that would clear his debts.
The jury heard that Cilliers – whose parents Stoltz and Zaan live in Betty’s Bay in the Western Cape – was involved in at least two extramarital affairs and was desperate to start a new life with his secret lover‚ Stefanie Goller.
I shouldn’t have survived that and that was a real shock which I was finding pretty hard to deal with.Victoria Cilliers
He was also accused of sleeping with his ex-wife‚ Carly Cilliers.
Mr Justice Sweeney said that before sentencing Cilliers he wanted probation officers to report on his “dangerousness” and to obtain a statement from Victoria about the impact the offences had on her.
Experts told the court it was a miracle that she survived the fall‚ which left her with a broken pelvis‚ broken ribs and fractured vertebrae.
Cilliers grew up in South Africa and was a foreman at his father’s construction company‚ the BBC reported.
When he moved to the UK in 2000, he left behind two young children‚ a boy and a girl‚ with their South African mother‚ Nicolene.
Victoria told Wiltshire police her husband had barely visited her in hospital after she survived the fall and refused to say he loved her as she recovered from major surgery.
In a video interview shown to the jury‚ she said she believed her fall was not a mistake‚ and that the chance of both parachutes failing was one in a million.
The prosecution argued that Cilliers had removed slinks connecting the harness to the parachutes’ lines.
Victoria said in the interview: “It’s not really a conceivable accident – you can’t categorically say it was not an accident, you can’t categorically say it was‚ but never in the history of parachuting worldwide has it happened.
“Those slinks do not just disappear‚ even when wrongly assembled.
“I shouldn’t have survived that and that was a real shock which I was finding pretty hard to deal with.”
She said the canopy of the parachute twisted and she had to cut it away. “I can’t remember if I pulled the reserve or it deployed automatically.
“I could feel the reserve fly and again straight away I felt something wasn’t right and it was very twisted.
“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.”
After the incident‚ police searched the Cilliers’ family home and found a gas valve had been tampered with.
The court was told that when Victoria discovered the leak‚ she sent her husband a WhatsApp message asking him if he was trying to kill her.
Zaan Cilliers told the Daily Mail in 2015 there was no truth to allegations that her son had tried to kill Victoria.
“I believe in my son . . . I know him and know there is no truth in it.”
Cilliers was an instructor with the Royal Army Physical Training Corps attached to the Royal Marines.
He is originally from Ermelo in Mpumalanga.