Inside the world of parachute murder plotter who was jailed for life for trying to kill his wife

11 June 2024, 10:29

Victoria Cilliers survived falling 4,000 feet
Victoria Cilliers survived falling 4,000 feet. Picture: Pixel8000

By Will Conroy

A woman whose husband tried to kill her by tampering with her parachute for a skydiving jump has revealed how she defended him and visited him in prison in a new documentary.

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On Easter Sunday in 2015, Victoria Cilliers survived falling 4,000 feet after both of her parachutes failed on a skydiving trip in Wiltshire that was gifted to her by her husband, Emile.

Victoria sustained life-threatening injuries but remarkably survived through a combination of her skillset as an experienced skydiver and the luck of landing on soft and newly ploughed soil.

The military PT instructor assumed the failed parachutes were an unfortunate accident in the aftermath of the incident but later learned from the police that they suspected her husband had tampered with the equipment.

Despite this, Victoria defended her husband during the subsequent investigation and visited him in prison as a result of the coercive control he exerted in their relationship.

The pair had experienced stress in their relationship but Victoria believed the then-British Army sergeant was looking to turn over a new leaf with this gift.

Victoria defended her husband during the investigation and visited him in prison
Victoria defended her husband during the investigation and visited him in prison. Picture: Pixel8000

A new three-part documentary called The Fall: Skydive Murder Plot has delved into the skydive and the sequence of events which occurred in the run-up and following the incident.

The Channel 4 series combines documentary testimony with dramatic portrayals of the people involved in the jump in the Netheravon Airfield, police interviews and the court case.

According to Channel 4, the incident “set in motion an investigation by a pair of dogged detectives, DC Maddy Hennah and DI Paul Franklin.

They spent two years pulling at the threads of his life, revealing affairs, debts, sex clubs, escorts, and murderous intent”.

The officers of Wiltshire Police spoke of how they found that Emile had covered his tracks well as the investigation developed.

They brought together audio, visual and written evidence, building a “compelling picture of a sociopathic narcissist who groomed and exploited everyone in his life”.

Victoria was an experienced skydiver
Victoria was an experienced skydiver. Picture: MailOnline

However, things became more complicated as Victoria turned against the police and supported her husband which demonstrated what the documentary describes as “the insidious nature of Emile’s controlling behaviour”.

DI Paul Franklin added: “She was quite stoic, quite cold. You never really got a feel from her, you never really got any emotion from her.

“You never really felt you got to know her, [it was] very difficult to build that rapport or find some common ground.”

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Victoria had defended how good of a father Emile was but the police learnt via a phone call from one of her friends that the marriage was not a good one.

According to the investigators, they took this call very seriously and Emile’s arrest soon followed.

They soon learnt of his affair with a woman named Stephanie which Victoria was not aware of and how he no longer wanted to continue with their marriage.

Despite the investigators feeling uncomfortable in Emile’s presence, they had no material evidence, which hampered the investigation, and Victoria’s lack of cooperation exacerbated this.

The police discovered that Emile had been researching wet nurses the day before the skydive
The police discovered that Emile had been researching wet nurses the day before the skydive. Picture: PA

However, this changed when Victoria agreed to another interview after she revealed that there had been a gas leak soon before the skydiving incident and admitted this was the “first time she (was) scared” of her husband.

She also shared how she had paid for everything in their relationship over the years and how Emile would become angry when she questioned him on expenses such as bills for meals she did not recognise.

The police discovered that Emile had been researching wet nurses the day before the skydive and that he had been in the toilet for between five and ten minutes with Victoria's parachute before her jump.

After speaking to a psychologist, who concluded Emile to be a psychopath - and a very dangerous one, the case was taken to trial at Winchester Crown Court in 2017.

However, during her testimony, Victoria claimed she “elaborated” on the length of time her husband had been in the bathroom before the jump and suggested she may have damaged the parachute.

Victoria eventually told Emile that she wanted to divorce
Victoria eventually told Emile that she wanted to divorce. Picture: Les Wilson

The investigators were frustrated by her defence of her husband and the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Describing her testimony in the series, she said: “I was always very aware of every answer I gave, the impact that, potentially, it could have on my future. I don’t think I lied a lot. I think I kept a lot of secrets, I kept a lot to myself.”

Victoria once again defended Emile in the retrial but the police were able to convince the jury that she was a victim of coercive control.

Emile was sentenced to 36 years in prison, with the judge describing his actions as “extremely serious”, and saying his behaviour amounted to 'two attempts to murder [his] wife”. He will serve a minimum of 18.

Victoria visited him in prison as he tried to convince her to get back with him but she eventually told him that she wanted to divorce in a moment she described as “freeing”.

She said: “I have started seeing it all. This person, and what they've done to me...I don't know how you can do that to someone who you loved and had children with.”

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