Emile Cilliers

An Army sergeant accused of attempting to kill his wife by tampering with her parachute may be a "pantomime villain driven by lust" but he had no motive for murder, his defence barrister has told the trial jury.

Emile Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, is accused at Winchester Crown Court of two counts of attempting to murder Victoria Cilliers while having two affairs.

Elizabeth Marsh QC, defending, told the jury of nine women and three men that the prosecution considered Cilliers as a "vile human being" and treated him with "scorn, sarcasm and theatricality" but she told the jurors they had to remember he was "innocent until they were sure he was guilty".

She said: "Mr Cilliers is an easy target, no Prince Charming, if anything the pantomime villain, unfaithful, lying to each of the women in his life, as one assumes needs must if you are conducting any sort of affair.

"If it's the path you choose to tackle, honesty is not something that is possible once an affair has been embarked upon.

"He is something of a penniless scoundrel which is how he might be characterised - if only Victoria Cilliers had been tied to the train tracks with Mr Cilliers twirling his mustache.

"But we are not there, it's fantasy land and we have to look at the evidence."

She added: "Do not characterise lies to fan the flames of lust as someway a motive for a murder."

Ms Marsh said that the suggested motive that he expected to receive her estate and insurance payout to pay off his debts of £22,500 was "utterly rubbish".

Ms Marsh added: "It wouldn't take Stephen Hawking to work out why you wouldn't give him an open chequebook."

 "If Victoria died, he wouldn't get a penny, not a brass farthing, nothing."

Ms Marsh suggested that although parachuting could be seen as a dangerous sport it was safer than "driving, cycling or being a pedestrian" but said that accidents do happen.

She described the famous parachute jump depicting the Queen and James Bond parachuting into the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in 2012.

She continued:

"Within 12 months, the man who played Daniel Craig was dead, he had died in a wingsuit stunt, an accident occurred. It happens however experienced you are."

In their closing statements yesterday, the prosecution argued that Mr Cilliers had the knowledge, expertise, opportunity, and motive to tamper with his wife’s parachute.

Mr Cilliers denies the two counts of attempted murder and one of criminal damage with which he is charged.


An Army sergeant accused of tampering with his wife's parachute in a botched plot to kill her has suggested she was targeted by a stranger, a court heard.

Emile Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, said the idea was a "possibility" during cross-examination jurors at Winchester Crown Court.

He told jurors: "I'm not trying to point the finger at anybody, I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this.

"All I know is I didn't have anything to do with it but someone must have."

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

Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting said the notion of a "complete stranger" trying to sabotage a parachute track with the "sudden urged to kill someone", without knowing who it belonged to, was "ridiculous".

Cilliers called it a "possibility", to which Mr Bowes retorted: "It's a possibility a number of asteroids will strike the earth, isn't it?"

Emile Victoria Cilliers

The court earlier heard that Cilliers had searched the internet for the term 'wet nurses' - used to describe women drafted in to breastfeed babies when the mothers are unable.

Mrs Cilliers had given birth two months before, the trial previously heard.

Asked why he researched the term, he said he did not know and it was probably something he was watching on television at the time, adding: "Maybe something to do with Princess Charlotte.

"It was just a subject of interest. We would often see something on TV and then research it."

Ms Marsh asked: "Should the jury read anything suspicious into the search?"

He replied: "No."

He told the court Mrs Cilliers had been "keen" to jump again and expressed an interest in trying skydiving one last time.

He said he would like to jump with her because of her experience and it was her choice what kit she used.

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

The trial continues.

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