What happened to Victoria and Emile Cilliers from The Fall: The Skydive Murder Plot

The harrowing true story behind the new Channel 4 docuseries

Victoria Cilliers in The Fall: The Skydive Murder Plot
The Fall: The Skydive Murder Plot airs on Channel 4. (Channel 4)

Something going wrong during a skydive is surely everyone's worst nightmare but that’s exactly what happened to the person at the centre of Channel 4’s terrifying new docuseries The Fall: The Skydive Murder Plot.

This three-part programme tells a story that’s as harrowing as it is unbelievable. It chronicles the events leading up to experienced skydiver Victoria Cilliers being left to fall to her death after her parachute and back-up chute both failed to open.

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As if that wasn’t bad enough, it was later discovered that her husband of four years, Emile, was responsible for the incident and later charged and imprisoned for his actions.

So what exactly happened to Victoria and Emile Cilliers and how did this sinister ordeal occur?

Victoria Cilliers in the field where she landed
Victoria Cilliers pictured in the field where she landed. (Channel 4)

Victoria Cilliers is a trained physiotherapist, former British Army Captain and an experienced skydiver.

On Easter Sunday, 5 April 2015, both Victoria and her husband Emile took part in a skydive. It had been booked as a gift from her husband after the pair had experienced a difficult period in their marriage.

Prior to this, Victoria had completed more than 2,600 skydives without experiencing any issues. However, not long after embarking on this jump, she discovered a problem with her main parachute — its lines were twisted.

A portrait of Victoria Cilliers
Victoria Cilliers survived a 4000-feet free fall. (Channel 4)

Relying on her extensive experience, Victoria quickly cut the canopy of her main chute in an attempt to resolve this issue. It was at this point that she noticed that her back-up chute had also failed to open. The problem here revolved around missing slinks which are used to connect the main lines of a canopy to a diver's harness.

As a result, Victoria was left to free fall around 4000 feet to the ground below. Such was the intensity of her descent that those who witnessed the incident were so convinced she had not survived the fall that they brought a body bag to the impact scene.

Miraculously, Victoria somehow managed to survive — albeit with a broken back, pelvis and ribs.

MyAnna Buring as Victoria Cilliers in The Fall: The Skydiver Murder Plot
MyAnna Buring plays Victoria Cilliers in The Fall: The Skydiver Murder Plot. (Channel 4)

Her survival was largely deemed a result of where she landed, a soft area of recently ploughed farmland, this area was just feet away from a country path which would've certainly had fatal consequences.

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Despite initially believing the incident was accidental, a police report later found evidence of parachute tampering which led to a criminal investigation taking place.

Emile Cilliers arrives at Winchester Crown Court
Emile Cilliers was jailed for 18 years. (Getty)

Emile moved to the UK from South Africa in the early 2000s and met Victoria in 2009 after his first marriage ended in divorce. The pair married shortly afterwards and had two children before their relationship began to deteriorate.

According to reports, Emile's behaviour became increasingly erratic. He'd use Victoria's money to pay off his increasing debts and was accused by a family friend of allegedly sending inappropriate messages to their teenage daughter. Soon afterwards, Victoria discovered that he was having an affair but was unable to face up to the truth of the situation due to the abuse of power apparent in the relationship.

It is believed that Emile planned to use money gained from Victoria's life insurance to pay off his debts and begin a new life with his partner — someone who was unaware that he was still married.

Before the incident with the parachute, Emile had tried to kill Victoria by leaving the gas running in the family home. Luckily, Victoria noticed the smell and was able to save herself and their two children.

Victoria Cilliers leaves Winchester Crown Court in a car
Victoria Cilliers attended the criminal trial of her husband Emile. (Getty)

In October 2018, Emile was convicted of tampering with Victoria’s parachutes and also attempting to murder her via a gas leak. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, with the judge calling his actions “wicked offending of extreme gravity.”

“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,” continued Mr Justice Sweeney.

“That your wife recovered at all was miraculous. She undoubtedly suffered severe physical harm and she must have suffered psychological harm in the terror of the fall and since.

“She appears to have recovered from the physical harm but not, having seen her in the witness box at length, from the psychological harm.”

The Fall: The Skydive Murder Plot starts at 9pm on Channel 4, and airs over three nights from Tuesday, 11 June.