Attempted murder Army Sergeant was 'qualified' parachute packer

Netheravon Airfield (Google Streetview)

1:33pm 12th October 2017

An Army Sergeant, accused of attempting to kill his wife by sabotaging her parachute, had done paid work packing chutes at Netheravon.

The trial of Emile Cilliers has heard how the 37-year-old from the Royal Army Physical Training Corps in Aldershot, was qualified to pack main parachutes but not reserves.

His wife, Victoria Cilliers, suffered multiple injuries when a 4,000 foot fall went wrong over the base on Salisbury Plain on April 5 2015.

Giving evidence, Alan Westley, who joined the Army Air Corps in 1998, said that of the 500 reserve parachutes he had checked before May 2015 which had slinks, he had never found one with a missing slink or with a slink undone or not properly done up.

Describing Mrs Cilliers, with whom he has jumped 100 times, Mr Westley said:

"She was a very competent, capable jumper, she was an accelerated free-fall instructor."

He said that her own parachute, which was sent away for inspection at the time of her near-fatal jump, was smaller and "more high performance and sporty" than the one she hired.

Mr Westley said that on Saturday April 4 2015, the day before the jump, he authorised the kit store at Netheravon to issue a 149 parachute to Mrs Cilliers because he knew she was experienced to use it. Describing the defendant's jumping ability, he said that he had "fairly low experience" and was an "infrequent jumper".


Mr Westley said that Emile Cilliers was qualified to pack main parachutes but not reserve parachutes, and carried out paid work packing parachutes at Netheravon. Mr Westley said that Mr Cilliers had completed a four-day reserve packing course and he had previously supervised the defendant packing his wife's own personal reserve parachute.

The court heard that the Safire 149 parachute used by Mrs Cilliers was last used on March 25 2015, with a previous use in that March and another 38 flights in 2014.

The reserve, which was bought as a new rig in July 2007, was last inspected by Mr Westley on February 4 2015.

He confirmed that he checked all four risers of the reserve parachute for slinks on that inspection and said that all of the slinks were in a "fully serviceable" condition.

The court heard that of the approximately 25,000 jumps a year at Netheravon in 2013, there were 33 deployments of reserve parachutes, of which 19 were APA kit.

In 2014, 35 reserves were deployed, of which 16 were club kit, in 2015 there were 26 reserve deployments, of which eight were club kit, and in 2016 there were 26 deployments with seven by club kit.

Mr Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps in Aldershot, denies two charges of attempted murder of his wife.

The trial at Winchester Crown Court continues.

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