Victoria Cilliers: the true story behind the parachute murder plot

Your questions about Victoria Cilliers and the parachute murder attempt answered.

The real-life story of Victoria Cilliers and her husband's attempt to kill her by tampering with her parachute shocked the world. What happened to Victoria is the subject of a memoir, I Survived, a major Netflix film and a forthcoming drama-documentary from Channel 4. Here we outline everything you need to know about the case. 

Discover more about Victoria's inspiring story through her book, I Survived.

What happened to Victoria Cilliers? 

On Easter Sunday 2015, experienced skydiver Victoria Cilliers undertook a parachute jump, a gift from her husband, British army sergeant Emile Cilliers. Their relationship had been under strain – Victoria had caught Emile in a web of lies which he staunchly denied – but Victoria saw the gift as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. However, during the skydive both her standard and reserve parachutes failed to open and she plummeted 4,000 feet to the ground. Those who saw the fall were so convinced she had died that a body bag was brought to the scene. Victoria sustained life-threatening injuries including a broken pelvis, but survived. 

As she was recovering, police arrived at her door. While she assumed the parachute failures had been a terrible accident, evidence suggested that someone had tampered with her parachute, and the police suspected Emile.

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Who is Emile Cilliers?

Born in South Africa in 1980, Emile Cilliers moved to the UK in the early 2000s where he married his first wife, Carly. After having two children, the couple divorced. In the winter of 2009, Emile walked into the treatment centre where Victoria worked as a physio. He was a physical training instructor in the Royal Artillery at the time and had badly injured his knee in a skiing accident. The pair started a relationship soon after that, and had two children together. 

However, as their relationship developed Emile's behaviour became increasingly worrying. He started to rack up debt and spend Victoria's money, relying on limp excuses such as claiming work had mixed up his wages. He would often disappear for long periods of time, was accused by one of Victoria's friends of sending inappropriate messages to her sixteen-year-old daughter, and started receiving emails from a sex club, which Victoria discovered on the family computer. It soon became obvious he was also having an affair. But, like many women with abusive partners, Victoria was trapped in the relationship. 

Emile wanted to take the money from Victoria's life insurance to pay off his debt and start a new life with his girlfriend, who was under the impression that Emile and Victoria were no longer together. Before the parachute jump, Emile had already tried to kill Victoria, and their two children, by leaving the gas on. They narrowly escaped after Victoria smelt the leak. 

What did Emile get charged with?

After two trials – one in October 2017 where the jury failed to reach a verdict, and one in May 2018 –  Emile Cilliers was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of eighteen years and is currently serving his sentence at HM Dovegate Prison in Staffordshire. 

Where is Victoria Cilliers today?

Victoria lives happily in Wiltshire with her two children and works as a physio for the Ministry of Defence.

Where can I watch The Parachute Murder Plot?

In 2018, Netflix released a documentary film called The Parachute Murder Plot which further explored Emile Cilliers' motives to kill his wife. 

In March 2024, Channel 4 announced a new major TV documentary about the case called The Woman Who Fell To Earth.  

However, the full story is best told in Victoria's own words through her chilling yet inspiring memoir I Survived. It details so much more than just the day of the attempted murder, by telling a story of an abusive marriage and how seemingly small misdemeanours can escalate into something much more dangerous. 

I Survived

by Victoria Cilliers

Book cover for I Survived

I Survived is the story of marriage and attempted murder, revealing the truth about a case that made headlines around the world. In 2015, Victoria Cilliers fell 4,000 feet in a parachute jump after her parachutes failed to open. Her husband, Emile, was suspected of attempted murder. But I Survived goes beyond just this day as Victoria describes how she fell for Emile, and how the charming man she thought she knew gradually revealed a darker side, chipping away at her self-worth until she found it impossible to sift truth from lies. Powerful and honest, this is the story of a woman who was put through hell and yet found the strength to forge a new life for herself and her children.