International Crime

Parachute trial: Husband 'better off' with wife alive

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An Army instructor accused of trying to murder his wife would have been worse off if she had died, a court has heard.

Victoria Cilliers, 40, told jurors her husband Emile, 37, was “financially incontinent” and had issues with debt.

But wills and a post-nuptial agreement would not benefit Mr Cilliers if his wife died, Winchester Crown Court heard.

He denies attempting to murder Mrs Cilliers, who suffered a near-fatal fall when her parachute failed.

She suffered multiple injuries when she plummeted 4,000ft at Netheravon Airfield, Wiltshire in 2015.

Under cross-examination, ex-Army officer Mrs Cilliers said the couple had made the post-nuptial agreement in 2014.

It set out their assets and how they would be divided if the pair was to divorce.

Mrs Cilliers had previously told the court she knew her husband was in financial difficulty as he was “bad with money”.

‘Wrongly assumed’

She agreed with the defence’s suggestion that her husband had not challenged the drafting of the agreement or sought to get his name on the mortgage deed.

Mrs Cilliers also said she “wrongly assumed” that the couple’s life insurance payout would go to her husband.

She told the court: “I cannot recall a conversation with my solicitor, I think because I thought it went to Emile I left the house to the children (in the will) knowing he would get the life insurance money.”

Elizabeth Marsh QC, defending, said the couple’s policy “makes it plain” payment would not necessarily have gone to a spouse.

She asked: “Does it come to this, putting the insurance money aside, Emile would have been better off with you alive than you dead, wouldn’t he?”

Mrs Cilliers replied: “Yes.”

Prosecutors allege Mr Cilliers, a sergeant with the Aldershot-based Royal Army Physical Training Corps, twisted the lines of his wife’s main parachute and sabotaged a reserve chute the day before her jump.

Former Army physiotherapist Mrs Cilliers broke her vertebrae, ribs and pelvis in the fall.

Mr Cilliers also denies a second attempted murder charge and a third charge of tampering with a gas fitting at their home in Amesbury, Wiltshire, on 30 March 2015.

The trial continues.

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