Sergeant in parachute sabotage case denied permission to return to South Africa

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An Army sergeant facing a retrial for the attempted murder of his wife by allegedly tampering with her parachute has been denied permission by a judge 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.

Elizabeth Marsh QC, representing Cilliers, 37, 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 (Awol) 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.”

She added that 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, 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.”

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, 2018, with a pre-trial review hearing to be held on a date to be fixed.

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.

Victoria 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 Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015.

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