Parachute husband Emile Cilliers ‘hid financial problems’

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Emile Cilliers appearing in the defendants dock at Winchester Crown CourtImage copyright
Julia Quenzler

Image caption

Emile Cilliers was questioned by defence barrister Elizabeth Marsh QC

An Army sergeant accused of sabotaging his wife’s parachute in a bid to kill her hid his financial woes from her, a court has heard.

Emile Cilliers, 37, denies attempting to murder Victoria Cilliers, who survived a 4,000ft fall.

At Winchester Crown Court, South African Mr Cilliers said he secretively took out “loans to cover other loans” out of fear his wife would leave him.

“I was hiding from Victoria the financial situation I was in,” he said.

“I was living above my means, taking out loans to cover other loans – all my money would go on repaying loans and I would get another loan to try and hide it.

‘Scared’

“I would be embarrassed [if Victoria found out].

“I was afraid she would be disappointed in me, I was just scared.”

When asked by Elizabeth Marsh QC, defending, what he thought would happen if his wife had found found out he replied: “Leave me.”

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PA

Image caption

Mr Cilliers took the stand at Winchester Crown Court for the first time on Friday

The jury heard that Mrs Cilliers later discovered her husband was struggling with money, and agreed to bail him out.

“I kept on blaming various things for money being missing or not appearing.

“I never told her the truth about the debt I was in or who I owed the money to and I think it came to the point where she had enough,” he said.

The jury had previously been told about financial arrangements, including wills, a life insurance policy and a post-nuptial agreement between the couple.

While giving her evidence, Mrs Cilliers told the court these arrangements would not have benefitted her husband in the event of her death.

In court: Fiona Lamdin, BBC West social affairs correspondent

Emile Cilliers is wearing a dark navy blue suit, a pale blue shirt, a yellow tie, a small poppy pin badge and polished shoes.

He answers questions in a calm voice, with a faint South African accent.

When asked by defence barrister Elizabeth Marsh QC where he lived when he first came to England, he says he tried Scotland but only lasted a few weeks.

He also told the court how he had planned on proposing on top of Table Mountain in South Africa after he and Victoria had climbed up.

But the proposal didn’t happen then, he told the court, as ” Victoria had a meltdown half way through”.

Mrs Cilliers broke her vertebrae, ribs and pelvis in the fall at Netheravon Airfield in 2015.

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.

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.

He will continue to give evidence when the trial continues on Monday.

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