true crime

Victoria Cilliers survived 2 mysterious 'accidents'. Her husband was behind both.

Victoria and Emile Cilliers' love story began when the pair met during a chance encounter in 2009.  

He was an army sergeant. She was a physio. Emile walked into Victoria's workplace seeking treatment for a knee injury he sustained while on a skiing holiday

As far as meet-cute venues go, a physiotherapist's treatment room is hardly the stuff of great romances, but that didn't matter. Emile and Victoria fell in love.

Then, Emile tried to kill her. Twice.

Who are Victoria and Emile Cilliers?

South African-born Emile was a sergeant in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps in the UK, where he had moved in the early 2000s. He married his first wife, Carly, not long after making the move and the couple had two children before getting divorced.

In the wake of the breakdown of his first marriage, Emile met a physio named Vicky while getting rehab on his knee.

After their first meeting, it didn't take long for the pair to strike up a relationship, and in 2011 they were married in Cape Town, South Africa. Shortly after they welcomed two children together.

For Vicky, their fairytale romance was perfect on the surface — however, underneath it all, the man she fell in love with was harbouring some deep, dark secrets.

The beginning of a husband's betrayal.

In 2013, Emile started to display increasingly troubling behaviour. Financial woes were the first signs something was amiss, when he asked his wife to transfer him money from her account before skimming a further large sum and blaming it on hackers.


He was not only being shady with their money, but also engaging in some other unsavoury activities. At one point Vicky found emails from a sex club addressed to Emile on the family computer and she started to hear rumours he was inappropriately texting a family friend's 16-year-old daughter.

Furthermore, Emile began disappearing for long periods of time — often Vicky had no idea where her husband was or what he was doing. And in 2014, while Vicky was six months pregnant with their child, Emile was in Austria beginning an affair with a woman named Stef Goller.

By early 2015, Emile and Stef's affair was ramping up. It was around this time he sent an ominous text to his mistress: "From April onwards I can do random and spontaneous."

The first murder attempt.

On March 29, 2015, Emile was deep in his long-distance love affair with Stef, whom he would meet up with occasionally for rendezvous. But keen for a closer illicit hookup while they were apart, Emile texted his ex-wife Carly to arrange a meet-up for sex.

He told Vicky he needed to stay at the army barracks for the evening but before he left the family home, he took a pair of pliers and a wrench, and opened the top nut on the gas valve in the kitchen of the home he and Vicky shared.

The next day, Vicky noticed an odd smell coming from the kitchen. She quickly realised there was something wrong and called her husband. During the phone call, Emile instructed her to turn the gas on. However, trusting her gut instinct, Vicky decided against it. The decision saved her life — and scuppered her husband's first attempt at murdering his wife. 


Watch: Amber Heard speaks out in domestic abuse PSA. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

The second murder attempt.

After Emile's first plan to kill his wife failed, he set about creating another murder plot. In early April, he invited his wife to go skydiving, so the family (along with their two children) headed to Netheravon Airfield. Once there, Emile tampered with Vicky's parachute, hoping to have it malfunction when she jumped from the plane.

But the jump was cancelled due to bad weather. Once again, his plans to kill his wife had been set back.

The next day, on April 5, 2015, the weather was slightly better and Emile encouraged his wife — an experienced skydiver — to go through with the jump while he stayed at home with their kids.

At 4,000 feet, Vicky leapt from the plane. Her parachute failed to open — and she began falling seemingly to her death.


On the ground below, instructors could see her parachute malfunctioning and knew that the outcome would be catastrophic. They prepared a body bag as she plummeted to the earth. But by some miracle, Vicky landed on soft soil in a nearby field. She was badly injured, with a shattered pelvis, multiple broken vertebrae, and crushed ribs. But she had survived. 

Her husband's murder attempt had failed again.

Emile's trial and conviction.

In the aftermath of the parachute incident, it was clear to Vicky and instructors on the ground that foul play was at hand. In late April, Emile was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, and in September, new charges were brought about. Emile was accused of intentionally causing a gas leak in the home in an attempt to kill Vicky.

In 2017, the highly publicised court proceedings began with Emile on trial for two counts of attempted murder against Vicky. Unfortunately, the first trial was thrown out as the jury could not reach a verdict. In 2018 a second trial was held, with prosecutors this time giving jurors a closer look at Emile's motives.

Evidence was presented that showed Emile was $42,000 in debt. He had been hoping to claim a $231,000 life insurance payout from his wife's 'accidental death' in order to clear his financial woes and start a new life with Stef Goller.

In the end, the evidence stacked against Emile during the second trial was too compelling and the jury found him guilty of attempting to murder his wife twice. During the handing down of his sentence, Judge Nigel Sweeney told the court his actions were "wicked offending of extreme gravity.


"You have shown yourself to be a person of quite exceptional callousness who will stop at nothing to satisfy his own desires, material or otherwise," he said while addressing Emile.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 18 years.

Where are Victoria and Emile Cilliers now?

These days, Emile is seeing out his sentence in HM Dovegate Prison in Staffordshire, while his ex-wife Vicky is getting the last word.

In 2020, she released a tell-all book, I Survived, in which she goes into detail about what it was like living with a controlling partner, how she told her children about their father's actions, and how she learned to process her trauma.

While Vicky still deals with excruciating physical and mental pain as a result of her ex-husband's murder attempts, she has chosen to accept her past and move on with her life. And in the ultimate reclaim of her agency, she returned to the air and continues to skydive. 

He tried to take her life and he failed. Now she lives in honour of all the women whose lives were cut short by cruel and callous partners.

Feature Image: ITV.