London - An army sergeant accused of trying to murder his wife by sabotaging her parachute had debts which were "spiralling out of control", a court heard.
Emile Cilliers, 37, is alleged to have twice tried to kill his Army officer wife Victoria so he could inherit her £120 000 (about R2,2 million) life insurance.
Giving evidence for the first time on Friday, South African-born Cilliers admitted he concealed debts of more than £6 000 because he was afraid his wife would leave him. He told jurors he was spending above his needs in the months leading up to the alleged murder attempts.
He said he constantly relied on Victoria to bail him out and lied that he was seeking advice from money managing experts.
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Cilliers is accused of removing vital parts of his wife’s parachutes before a 4 000ft skydive in April 2015. She survived the fall but sustained massive injuries. Days earlier, he allegedly sabotaged a gas valve at their home in Amesbury, Wiltshire, apparently in an attempt to trigger a gas explosion. Cilliers, a father of six, on Friday told Winchester Crown Court that he was already in debt when he split with his previous wife.
He said: ‘I was in debt of around £5 000 to £6 000 when we split. I tried to deal with it but it spiralled out of control a little bit.
"I was finding it hard to deal with it – I had serious issues as I was spending money on things I should not have spent it on."
He said Victoria was unaware of his debts when he moved in with her, adding: "She was not happy about my debts – I didn’t tell her from the start but she said she would help me.
"I was living above my means and taking out loans to cover other loans. All my money would go on loans and by the end of the month I would take out another one to try and hide it. I was embarrassed, I was afraid Victoria would be ashamed of me. I wanted to tell her but was scared of the consequences, I was scared she might leave me.
"There came a point where she had enough and gave me an ultimatum. To buy some time, I made up a lie. I told her I had issues with money being transferred to my account and with financial advisers and I was asking advice from the ombudsman."
Cilliers was questioned about his movements in the 24 hours before his wife’s skydive over Salisbury Plain. It is alleged he removed vital "slinks" from the parachute harness in the toilets at Netheravon airfield.
Elizabeth Marsh QC, defending, asked him: "Would you have had any idea what kind of reserve chute was in that container? Would you know if it would accompany that main? Would you have knowledge of the type of links between the line and risers used in that container? Did you know what kind of linkage was in there?"
Cilliers replied ‘no’ to each question, adding: "I would have had no idea what type of kit was inside."
Cilliers, who lives in Army barracks at Aldershot, Hampshire, denies two counts of attempted murder and one of criminal damage as to whether or not it recklessly endangers life. The trial continues.