A skydiver whose Army husband allegedly tried to murder her by sabotaging her parachute only survived a 4,000ft fall because a single thread of strapping was attached to her harness, a court was told yesterday.
Sgt Emile Cilliers, 37 of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, is accused of removing two vital components from a parachute rig, leaving his wife Victoria Cilliers to plunge 4,000ft to the ground during her jump. Ms Cilliers survived the fall but sustained multiple injuries at Netheravon Airfield in Wiltshire on 5 April 2015.
Prosecutor Michael Bowes QC said: “Those attending at the scene expected to find her dead.
“Although she was badly injured, almost miraculously she survived the fall.
“Those at the scene immediately realised that something was seriously wrong with her reserve parachute.
“Two vital pieces of equipment which fasten the parachute harness were missing.
Mark Bayada, chief instructor of the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon, told the court Mrs Cilliers was “in the top per cent of competency in the country”. He told jurors two vital components, known as slinks, were missing from Mrs Cillier’s reserve chute.
It is “almost impossible”, he said, for the “extremely strong” components to come off by mistake.
Mr Bayada said Mrs Cillier’s main parachute was “distorted, rotated and bunched up”.
He said the parachute’s lines were “massively entangled”.
It was “highly unlikely”, he said, that user error “would result in a malfunction with that much entanglement”.
The only “innocent explanation” for the missing slinks, he said, was that medics had cut them away. But upon checking, he said, the only thing at the scene which first aiders had cut was Mrs Cilliers’ goggles strap. Mr Bayada attributed Mrs Cilliers’ survival to the relatively low height of her jump.
Mr Cilliers, who is based at the Royal Army Physical Training Corps in Aldershot, Hampshire, is also accused of damaging a gas valve at their home in Amesbury, Wiltshire in a failed attempt to blow up their house with Ms Cilliers inside it.
The trial continues.