The disturbing true story behind Victoria Cilliers’ attempted murder by husband

The disturbing true story behind Victoria Cilliers’ attempted murder by husband

In 2018, an army sergeant was convicted of trying to murder his wife and the mother of his two children, by tampering with her parachute.

The warped murder plot, enacted 5 weeks after she had given birth, was his second attempt on her life in a week.

Victoria Cilliers, fell four thousand feet, almost to her death and was recovering at home in the arms of her attempted murderer, Emile Cilliers, before the chilling plan was exposed by police.

Now, the events leading up to the thwarted scheme are the subject of a new three-part Channel 4 documentary, whose first episode aired on Tuesday (11 June).

Victoria Cilliers and her marriage to Emile

The Fall: Skydive Murder Plot follows Victoria, a trained physiotherapist and captain in the British army and her marriage to Emile, an army sergeant who would go on to try and kill her. She was also an experienced jumper and skydiving instructor who had made the jump which nearly killed her, over 2,600 times in the past.

Emile was born in South Africa, eventually moving to the UK in the early 2000s. When the couple met in 2009, he was already married to his first wife Nicole, and the couple shared two children. After meeting Victoria for help with his knee, he left his wife, and went on to marry Victoria in 2011.

Cracks in the relationship appeared in 2015, when Victoria suspected Emile of having an affair, which he vehemently denied. However, a police investigation later found that he regularly hired sex workers and attended swingers’ clubs, even being kicked out of one for inappropriate behaviour. He accumulated thousands of pounds in debt in the process, which he hid from his wife.

He eventually met Austrian skydiving instructor Stefanie Groff on Tinder and hatched a plan to clear himself of his debt by tapping into Victoria’s £120,000 insurance policy and start a new life with his new lover.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Skydive murder plot

On Easter Sunday (5 April) in 2015, Emile organised and booked a skydiving session for himself and his wife. She had just given birth to their second child, who she was still breastfeeding. As she leapt from the plane over Netheravon airfield, she deployed her parachute to prepare for landing. But it didn’t work.

As an experienced skydiver, she didn’t panic and deployed her emergency parachute instead. But unbeknownst to her, both parachutes had been tampered with, and she plummeted 4,000 feet to the ground at 60mph.

The plot that was supposed to kill her left her with life-threatening injuries, as she landed on a newly ploughed field which broke some of her fall. She was airlifted to hospital where she remained for 17 days, with the man who tried to murder her by her bedside. She suffered near-fatal injuries including a broken spine and pelvis, and fractured ribs.

Emile texted his partner Stefanie throughout his time supporting Victoria at the hospital as he said, “All I can think about is you”.

Emile Cilliers denies the two attempted murder charges (Facebook)
Emile Cilliers denies the two attempted murder charges (Facebook)

Exposing the scheme

The plot was uncovered once the skydiving company investigated the parachute packs following the incidents and noticed that they were in a highly unusual condition, appearing to have been tampered with. Parts that linked the parachute with the canopy were missing which indicated a crime. Mark Bayada, head of the Army Parachute Association alerted the police.

Police investigated the incident and uncovered Emile’s hidden life, revealing multiple affairs, debts, sex clubs and murderous intentions as well as coercive control over Victoria.

During his court case, Emile showed very little emotion, and accused Victoria of trying to kill herself, and suggested a “random killer” had attempted to take her life.

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

Cilliers was found guilty of attempted murder in May 2018 after a previous trial failed to reach a verdict as Victoria did not share her testimony. Her ex-husband was convicted of two attempted murder charges and a third count of damaging a gas valve at the couple’s home in a previous attempt on her life. Following the gas valve incident, Victoria had texted her husband: “Are you trying to kill me?”.

Emile was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison. Sentencing Cilliers, Mr Justice Sweeney said: “This was wicked offending of extreme gravity.”

He added: “Your offending was extremely serious with your two attempts to murder your wife. They were planned and carried out in cold blood for your own selfish purposes which include financial gain.”

Victoria is now a physiotherapist at the Ministry of Defence.

The Fall: Skydive Murder Plot is available on Channel 4 and 4 On Demand.

The national domestic abuse helpline offers support for women on 0808 2000 247, or you can visit the Refuge website. There is a dedicated men’s advice line on 0808 8010 327. Those in the US can call the domestic violence hotline on 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Other international helplines can be found via