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Sergeant Convicted in Wild Case of Parachute Sabotage

Emile Cilliers wanted to start new life with lover, prosecution alleged
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2018 5:34 PM CDT
Stock photo   (Getty Images / t_trifonoff)

(Newser) – Victoria Cilliers, an experienced parachuting instructor, knew as soon as she jumped during what was supposed to be a celebratory skydiving trip with her husband in 2015 that something was not right. "The lines were twisted. I was spinning," she testified in court in London, where a jury on Thursday convicted her husband of attempted murder via parachute tampering, the AP reports. British Army Sgt. Emile Cilliers, 38, prosecutors said, was having affairs with two women and hoped that by killing his wife, who had just given birth to the couple's second baby, he would be free to start a new life with one of them—and that by staging her death as an accident, her life insurance payout would allow him to pay off growing debts.

The New York Times says the trial was "a chronicle of illicit sex, bad loans and serial mendacity"; Emile Cilliers, who took out payday loans and borrowed money from colleagues to fund a lifestyle that included visits to prostitutes and vacations with his mistress, at one point told the court, "I'm a very sexual man." A prosecutor described how, after sabotaging his wife's equipment so that neither her main parachute nor her reserve parachute could open, causing her to plunge 4,000 feet, "[Cilliers] texts his mistress while at the side of his seriously injured wife, saying: I can’t imagine anything like this happening to you; all I can think about is you." She survived by landing on a newly-plowed field. Her husband was also convicted of endangering life by tampering with a gas valve at their home before the parachuting trip. (Read more attempted murder stories.)

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