British Army sergeant quizzed after wife's near-death parachute fall

LONDON (AFP) - A British Army sergeant is suspected of attempting to murder his wife, who had recently given birth to their son, by tampering with her parachute, British press reported Monday.

Emile Cilliers, 35, was arrested last week and questioned at length by police while his 39-year-old wife Victoria recovered from a broken collarbone, broken leg and spinal injuries after miraculously surviving the 4,000 foot (1,200 metres) plunge.

An experienced parachutist, the alleged victim managed to slow her fall from around 100 miles-per-hour to 30 miles-per-hour despite her parachute and reserve canopy failing to open properly, with the latter partially opening shortly before impact.

A member of her parachute club in Netheravon, southwest England, where the incident occurred, told the Daily Mail that Cilliers had been fortunate to land in a freshly-ploughed field.

Detective Inspector Paul Franklin said: "This woman would have been dead if her chute hadn't partially opened, this meant her descent was slowed enough for her to survive the fall.

"However, we were alerted to concerns over what had happened by the parachute club and as a result instigated an investigation."

Police were probing why the "slinks", or soft links between the parachute harness and canopy were "missing", he said.

Mr Cilliers, originally from South Africa, has been released on police bail while his wife, who gave birth to son Ethan five weeks ago, has been photographed recovering at home.

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