Parachute sabotage sergeant denied return to South Africa for Christmas

An army sergeant facing a retrial for the attempted murder of his Scottish wife has been denied permission to return to his home country of South Africa for Christmas.

Emile Cilliers applied to Judge Keith Cutler at Winchester Crown Court to have his bail conditions amended to enable him to spend a month in Cape Town with his elderly parents.

The 37-year-old is accused of allegedly tampering with his wife’s parachute.

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Victoria Cilliers, who was born in East Lothian, was left in shock after finding out the alleged cause of the near-fatal jump on Easter Sunday in 2015.

Elizabeth Marsh QC, representing Mr Cilliers, told the court: “He resides in barracks. There won’t be many people there because he is in a training unit and there will be no training.

“There is no pressing reason to go home. There is no matter of life and death. His parents are not young and it’s for the break to go home to see them.”

Ms Marsh said that if he had failed to return from the trip, the father of six would be treated as absent without leave by the army and added: “Mr Cilliers would lose everything. He would lose his career in the army, his pay would stop, he would receive no money if he were not to return to this country. He would lose contact with his children.”

Ms Marsh added that Mr Cilliers had returned to South Africa on three occasions after his initial arrest, but prior to being charged when conditions on his bail were put in place.

These are not to contact his wife, Victoria Cilliers, not to enter Amesbury and Netheravon and to surrender his passport to the police or army.

Michael Bowes QC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, said that while awaiting his original trial, Mr Cilliers had been granted permission by the court to travel to France for an army sporting competition, but his passport was held by his army supervisor at all times.

He said: “When bail was varied to go abroad for sport, very strict conditions were imposed to ensure safeguarding of the passport and the supervision of Mr Cilliers, neither of those would be present under these arrangements.”

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Denying the amendment to the bail conditions, Judge Cutler said: “I have concluded that I will not alter the bail conditions and they will remain as they are.”

He added that a date for the retrial had been set for April 11 next year, with a pre-trial review hearing to be held on a date to be fixed.

Mr Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, denies two charges of attempted murder and a third count of damaging a gas fitting.

He is accused of sabotaging his wife’s main and reserve parachute and a few days earlier tampering with a gas valve at the family home in Amesbury, Wiltshire.

Mrs Cilliers, a highly-experienced parachuting instructor, suffered near-fatal injuries when her main and reserve parachutes failed during a jump at the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on 5 April 2015.