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Sergeant faces retrial as jury fails to reach verdict in parachute sabotage case

UK News | Published:

Emile Cilliers denied two charges of attempted murder and a third count of damaging a gas fitting.

Emile Cilliers outside Winchester Crown Court

An Army sergeant is to face a retrial on charges of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute after the first jury failed to reach verdicts.

Emile Cilliers, 37, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, denied throughout a seven-week trial at Winchester Crown Court two charges of attempted murder and a third count of damaging a gas fitting.

The jury, depleted from 12 to 10 jurors by “stress-related illness”, sent a note to the judge stating they would be unable to reach verdicts. They had previously “publicly defended” themselves by denying there had been bullying in their deliberating room.

Mr Justice Sweeney discharged the forewoman and another female juror on Wednesday after they fell ill.

He told them in a direction that their deliberations “must remain within the proper bounds of discussion, and not amount to improper pressure or bullying”.

Emile Cilliers was on trial at Winchester Crown Court
Emile Cilliers was on trial at Winchester Crown Court (Chris Ison/PA)

In response, the 10 jurors, who began their deliberations on November 14, produced a note stating: “Following yesterday’s further direction, the jury returned to the deliberation room to read and discuss the direction as discussed.

“The jury unanimously agreed no such bullying had taken place.”

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Mr Justice Sweeney responded by stating in a further direction that his comments had not “suggested any bullying had been going on” but had been intended “to flush it out if it had”.

He told them: “Having to discharge jurors while they are deliberating for stress-related illnesses is very rare. It may happen at one end of the spectrum through sheer bad luck or at the other end of the spectrum, it may happen because something has gone wrong with the way the deliberations were being conducted.

“The law is clear that in these circumstances I had to make sure that it was not as a result of something having gone wrong hence my direction to you yesterday afternoon in which you will have noted it was not suggested any bullying had been going on but it was intended to flush it out if it had.

“All enquiries that I have been able to make this morning indicated that the media, for their part, simply and faithfully reported, either in whole or in part, my direction.

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“Any report that reached you suggesting any adverse implication in any of the media reporting was misconceived and must be ignored and which you have now made clear that you unanimously agree that there has not been any bullying and have thus publicly defended yourselves and your integrity albeit that was not in fact required.

“You must now put this episode completely behind you and when continuing your deliberations you must do so by way of a careful, dispassionate consideration of the evidence.”

Mr Justice Sweeney thanked the jury for their hard work after they had deliberated for about 30 hours.

Cilliers, wearing a grey suit, put his head down and looked at the floor as the decision to discharge the jury was announced.

The serving soldier with the Royal Army Physical Training Corps 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.

Mr Justice Sweeney released Cilliers on conditional bail until the retrial on the three counts which he denies is held on an unconfirmed date.

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