Cilliers Trial: Alleged Parachute Sabotage Could Have Been Done In Minutes

The trial of a soldier accused of trying to kill his wife with a sabotaged parachute has been shown a video demonstrating how it could be...

The trial of a soldier accused of trying to kill his wife with a sabotaged parachute has been shown a video demonstrating how it could be done in a toilet cubicle in just over five minutes.

Sergeant Emile Cilliers, 37, is accused of tampering with the chute of his former Army officer wife, Victoria Cilliers, the day before a jump at Easter in April 2015.

Prosecutors allege the NCO in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps took the chute into a lavatory at the airfield at Netheravon, Wiltshire, and twisted the lines of the main parachute before removing vital parts called "slinks" from the reserve.

Emile Cilliers Parachute
Prosecutors claim Mr Cilliers sabotaged the parachute by removing two of the four slinks

The jury at Winchester Crown Court had asked if they could be shown a demonstration of how this might be done in the tight space of the toilets, having visited Netheravon last week.

Mark Bayada, the Army Parachute Association (APA) chief instructor at Netheravon, an expert witness for the prosecution, carried out the filmed demonstration using two different parachutes, the court heard.

He used one which was the same size (149sq ft) as that used by Mrs Cilliers on her near-fatal jump but also another slightly larger parachute (170sq ft) because the container for the smaller one was a newer model which was slightly different to the one she used.

gentlemen's toilets at Netheravon Airfield in Wiltshire, where the prosecution allege that Army sergeant Emile Cilliers tampered with his wife's Victoria Cilliers parachute
The mens toilets at Netheravon Airfield

Mr Bayada completed the sabotage of the larger one in five minutes and 15 seconds and the smaller one in five minutes and five seconds.

Mr Bayada said that he had used a specialist metal packing paddle tool to help re-stow the reserve, but added: "Some people might be able to do it by hand, but if you did need to use a metal object, a knife or fork from the canteen, a ruler, even a small mobile phone, just something solid to help push the riders down."

To tamper with the main parachute, he placed the parachute bag through the reserve to "replicate" the malfunction experienced by Mrs Cilliers.

Emile Cilliers
Emile Cilliers at Winchester Crown Court

He said: "It would be indisputable I believe that with that type of equipment and that type of malfunction you would need to carry out your reserve drills."

Mr Bayada said that he put the slinks he removed by hand from the reserves in his pocket and said the tampering carried out would not be noticed in a pre-jump flight line visual check.

Cilliers, of Aldershot, Hampshire, denies two charges of attempted murder and a single charge of damaging a gas valve at the family home a few days earlier.

The trial continues.