Who is Victoria Cilliers and how did she survive parachute murder plot? Shocking story behind Ch4’s The Fall

 (Storyfilms TV/Channel 4)
(Storyfilms TV/Channel 4)

A new Channel 4 documentary The Fall: Skydive Murder Plot has laid bare the miraculous survival story of Victoria Cilliers, whose husband Emile tried to murder her by cutting her parachute and its reserve.

Following the attempted murder, Emile’s web of lies and coercive behaviour was exposed, eventually culminating in a minimum 18-year prison sentence for attempted murder in 2018.

But who exactly is Victoria and why did her now ex-husband try to take her life in 2015?

Who is Victoria Cilliers?

Victoria, a physiotherapist who served in the army and became a captain, now 48, she first met Emile, 44, an army sergeant, in 2010.

Victoria was in her 30s and admitted that she did not know what life had in store for her, having already experienced one failed marriage. But when their romance began, as she explained on Loose Women, she felt like she was “getting the happy ending”.

“[Emile] came out of nowhere, it was a bit like a lovebomb,” she said. “He promised me pretty much everything that I wanted, it felt like a fairy tale.”

The pair soon married in 2011 and had two children together.

Victoria’s ex-husband tried to murder her twice (Storyfilms TV/Channel 4)
Victoria’s ex-husband tried to murder her twice (Storyfilms TV/Channel 4)

However, there were signs, on reflection, that Emile was not who he appeared to be, which she realised “when he denied all his children” from previous relationships.

“I just chose to listen to what he said,” she admitted of moving past the father-of-six’s lies.

She also admitted that she got the impression that if her husband did not get his way, there would be consequences and said that whenever they did have a disagreement “I always ended up saying sorry.”

The Murder Plot

Victoria, an experienced skydiver, said that at the time of the incident, she thought her relationship with Emile was improving when he arranged the activity in Wiltshire, England.

“I’d got to the point where I’d had enough of the relationship and the marriage,” she admitted. “But it felt like maybe all is not lost. He wants to do something together.”

She also admits that she did have her suspicions at the time that he had not been entirely faithful.

Victoria said that on the day of the 4,000ft dive, she had “mixed emotions” but “felt good” when she jumped out of the plane as it is an activity that she enjoys.

When her first parachute failed, she admits she “wasn’t overly concerned as I’d had malfunctions before”.

But when her reserve failed too, she realised something was seriously wrong and had to put all her prior experience to good use to survive.

The odds of this were so unlikely that those on the ground who had seen the failure of both of her parachutes approached her with a body bag, as they were convinced that she would not survive the fall.

According to reports, when Victoria, who said that she was spinning, hit the ground, she was going at 60 miles per hour.

Victoria leaving Winchester Crown Court after giving evidence in the trial of her husband Emile (PA)
Victoria leaving Winchester Crown Court after giving evidence in the trial of her husband Emile (PA)

“I think it was a mix of things,” she said of her survival. “It was a combination of luck, trying to slow it down as much as I could, [and landing in a ploughed field helped].”

It has also been speculated that Victoria’s light weight helped her to survive the 4,000ft fall.

Looking back on the event, Victoria admitted she “didn’t have time” to consider the possibility of death because she was so focused on surviving the fall.

She emerged from the incident far from unscathed - breaking her pelvis, back, ribs and “had a few minor internal injuries”.

But while Victoria was convinced that she had experienced nothing more than a tragic accident, the company behind the skydive immediately suspected foul play.

The police were ultimately contacted by the Army Parachute Association.

“He just made me very uncomfortable right from the get-go,” DC Maddy Hannah, who was involved in the subsequent investigation, said of Emile on This Morning.

“He was supremely confident. To be that supremely confident, did not feel right.”

Emile was said to be 'unemotional' after the accident (PA)
Emile was said to be 'unemotional' after the accident (PA)

The Truth About Emile Cilliers

Following the attempted murder, Victoria, who struggled to accept what Emile was capable of, was asked to think about any prior incidents involving him that were “out of the ordinary”.

That’s when she finally put “two and two together” and realised that he had tried to gas her a week before tampering with her parachutes, which he cut in a bathroom the night before the dive.

She recalled texting him when she noticed gas in the house to ask if he was trying to kill her.

“Are you trying to kill me?!” she jokingly messaged.

“He had the strongest hold over anybody I have ever come across,” said DC Maddy Hannah.

An investigation by the police revealed to Victoria the extent of her husband’s betrayals, which included the affairs she suspected.

Emile also attempted to have unprotected intercourse with sex workers and even joined a swingers website.

Emile was motivated by three key factors (Getty Images)
Emile was motivated by three key factors (Getty Images)

It also emerged that Emily was struggling with significant debts and this is what motivated him to try and kill his wife to obtain her life £120,000 insurance.

He also believed this would make it much easier for him to move on with another woman he had already met on Tinder, Stefanie Groff.

A third motivating factor that emerged in the 2018 trial was Victoria’s status as an army officer, which Emile is suspected to have feared because of the detrimental effect on his career in the event of a divorce.

The now 44-year-old was ultimately described by the prosecution as a “harmless unfaithful penniless scoundrel.”

Victoria admits that the life sentence handed to her husband helped her to finally accept what he had done, but she admits that this was part of a process that took years.

While Emile continues to serve his sentence, Victoria explained on Loose Women that she has moved on with someone she met through parachuting.

This person was actually there the day of her attempted murder and admits that it was “a relief not to have to explain everything” to him.

The Fall: Skydive Murder Plot is available to watch on Channel 4.

The Independent has reached out to Army Parachute Association for further comment.