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Former U.K. soldier sentenced for damaging parachute of wife who survived 4,000-foot fall

LONDON -- A former British Army sergeant who tried to kill his wife by sabotaging her parachute so he could get her insurance money was sentenced Friday to at least 18 years in prison. Sgt. Emile Cilliers was convicted last month of two counts of attempted murder for the parachute tampering and sabotaging a gas valve at the couple's home.

Victoria Cilliers, 42, an experienced parachuting instructor, suffered near-fatal injuries when she fell 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) in April 2015, but survived by landing on a newly plowed field.

According to BBC News, her survival was described as a "near-miracle."

Prosecutors said the 38-year-old defendant was deeply in debt and wanted his wife's life insurance money to pay off his bills and start a new life with his lover.

"His selfish motives were simple - he believed that by killing Victoria his financial problems would be solved, his army career would continue with no danger of Victoria trying to damage it, and he could continue his illicit affair with his girlfriend," said Paul Franklin, of Wiltshire Police, according to BBC News.

Cilliers, who has been dismissed from the army, was sentenced at Winchester Crown Court in southern England to life with no chance of parole for 18 years. Judge Nigel Sweeney told him "this was wicked offending of extreme gravity."

"You have shown yourself to be a person of quite exceptional callousness who will stop at nothing to satisfy his own desires, material or otherwise," the judge said.

Outside court, the investigating officer, Detective Inspector Paul Franklin, said Cilliers was "a cold, callous, selfish man who cares only about money and his sexual conquests. Today's sentencing means that society is a little safer with him locked away."

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