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‘He has the traits of a psychopath’: the inside story of the parachute murder plot

Every 12 months, 1000’s of folks go an merchandise off their bucket listing by means of jumping out of an aeroplane above Netheravon airfield’s large, flat grass simple. It’s the biggest parachute drop zone in the United Kingdom, however unremarkable to take a look at: navy land, little greater than two blue and white Cessnas ready to take off, a couple of billowing orange windsocks and a few picnic tables. There’s a huge khaki hangar with a corrugated iron roof. That is the place the package room is, the place the bathrooms are, and the place Emile Cilliers attempted to escape with murdering his spouse.

On Saturday four April 2015, he took Victoria Cilliers’ parachute rig into the bathrooms and sabotaged it. Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, Vicky leapt from one of the most Cessnas and fell like a rag doll beneath her flailing cover, four,000toes (1,200m) to the bottom at 60mph, to what will have to were her dying: the primary folks at the scene have been so certain of it that they introduced a frame bag. However she was once discovered alive, with a damaged backbone, fractured ribs and a shattered pelvis, surviving best as a result of her small body had landed in a comfortable, newly ploughed box.

It was once Cilliers’ 2nd try to kill Vicky in lower than per week. However it took two felony trials to end up it, or even after Cilliers was once discovered accountable of 2 counts of tried homicide in Might, and given a existence sentence with a minimal time period of 18 years in June, the sufferer herself says she refuses to imagine her husband attempted to kill her. When any individual survives an strive on their existence, it will have to be an enormous benefit for the police investigation. However Vicky Cilliers’ survival made it tough to prosecute; Emile Cilliers was once convicted regardless of her proof, reasonably than as a result of it.

Why did a 38-year-old military officer wish to kill his spouse, the mum of his infant and new child child? Why do it in one of these far-fetched, difficult approach? And the way shut did he come to getting away with it?

Emile Cilliers

Emile Cilliers organized the bounce as ‘a deal with’ for Victoria simply weeks after she gave start to their 2nd kid. He had first added her to his existence insurance plans, giving her the utmost quilt. : Getty Pictures

Mark Bayada is bored stiff with answering questions. The manager teacher and boss of the Military Parachute Affiliation, which runs Netheravon, Bayada has spent 3 years being puzzled about that Easter weekend, first by means of the police, then right through cross-examination by means of defence barristers in two successive trials (the primary collapsed when two participants of the jury needed to be pushed aside with stress-related sickness). I’m the primary journalist he has agreed to talk to. He cares about getting issues proper, all the way down to the remaining element – that’s what makes him excellent at his activity – however he has been flooring down by means of being interrogated for days on finish. Nonetheless, if it weren’t for him, the tried homicide of Victoria Cilliers would by no means were regarded as a criminal offense in any respect: it was once his resolution to name the police, at a time when everybody else assumed she were injured in a freak parachuting coincidence.

“I’m the thrill police,” he says, deadpan, as he leads me throughout the hangar. “It’s my activity to give protection to folks from themselves.” Parachuting has been Bayada’s existence since his first bounce in 1992. He’s ex-military and appears it, with a greying grade one haircut and beard, and pale tattoos peeking out of the sleeves of his T-shirt; he has the tanned pores and skin of any individual who’s happiest outdoor. The hangar is an infinite house stuffed with squaddies studying to land on blue crashmats (on weekends, and sure afternoons, it’s open to the general public, and someone can bounce right here). He displays me to the package room, the place greater than 100 parachute rigs grasp on neat steel racks able to move, organised in keeping with the burden and degree of enjoy of the jumper who would possibly use them. Then he issues out “the scary rest room” the place Cilliers disappeared with Vicky’s rig, and “the scary locker” the place he stashed it in a single day.

Vicky was once a Netheravon common, an speeded up freefall (AFF) teacher with 2,654 jumps to her title. She was once educated to maintain out of keep watch over, green jumpers, and was once in a position to chase them across the sky right through freefall, catch them and get them in the correct place mid-air. “An actual, hardcore ability,” Bayada says, solemnly.

She labored as a physiotherapist for the Ministry of Defence, and met Cilliers, an teacher within the Royal Military Bodily Coaching Corps at the beginning from South Africa, when she handled him for a snowboarding harm. Via April 2015, they’d been married 4 years and lived in Amesbury, a 10-minute force from the airfield, with their three-year-old daughter and five-week-old son. Bayada says he knew them each best in a qualified capability; having sat via each trials he now is aware of some distance an excessive amount of about their private lives.

Victoria Cilliers

Victoria Cilliers struggled to just accept that her husband attempted to kill her. : Solent Information & Photograph Company

It was once Cilliers who had organized Vicky’s bounce that weekend, her first for just about a 12 months, telling her it was once a deal with after having their child. He introduced each their new child and their 3 12 months outdated alongside to look at their mom bounce. He presented to assemble a parachute from the package retailer, after which disappeared into the bathroom with it, claiming later that he best did so as a result of his daughter wanted the toilet and he didn’t wish to go away Vicky’s rig unattended. As Bayada issues out, everybody leaves their package out within the hangar; it might be absurd to take a 3 12 months outdated into the tiny rest room cubicle with a bulky parachute for your again. As soon as it was once determined that the elements was once too dangerous for someone to leap at the Saturday, Cilliers didn’t go back the rig to the package retailer like everybody else; he stashed it in Vicky’s locker.

The elements was once nonetheless deficient on Easter Sunday, and by means of the afternoon Vicky and the 11 others because of bounce together with her have been getting stressed. At 4pm they determined to do a “hop and dad” – a low-altitude bounce the place they’d open their parachutes inside seconds of having out of the aircraft – at four,000toes, because the cloud quilt was once too low to move any upper. Vicky was once excited to be again within the sky, fist-bumping the others throughout the aircraft. She was once the remaining of the 12 to make the bounce.

Nearly once Bayada reached her at the flooring, he spotted extraordinary issues about her package. “All of the traces on one facet of the parachute have been twisted up,” he says. “After we lifted her directly to the stretcher to position her into the helicopter, one of the most paramedics requested if any individual may glance beneath to ensure no traces have been nonetheless connected. That’s the primary time I appeared on the apparatus correctly, and I may see the 2 ends of the risers at the reserve parachute have been unattached.” Bayada didn’t are aware of it then, however Cilliers had knotted Vicky’s primary cover and got rid of necessary portions of the reserve: the comfortable hyperlinks, or slinks, that attach the harness to the parachute, have been absent.

Skydiving suits hanging up at Netheravon airfield

Skydiving fits at Netheravon airfield. : Jon Tonks for the Mum or dad

Bayada takes me via the whole lot he appeared for within the package Vicky left at the back of: he had attempted to search out unfastened sewing within the harness or cover; bunching at the straps to turn they’d been below any force; residues, burn marks, anything else to indicate the slinks were there and come what may come away. However he may in finding not anything to turn a mechanical fault, and even if Vicky’s reserve parachute had by no means prior to been deployed, it were inspected 16 occasions by means of 10 other complicated packers over its lifetime, maximum lately two months prior to Easter Sunday, and every time, the slinks have been there. “None of it added up,” he says.

Learning what had long past incorrect turned into an ethical factor for Bayada. He issues to a rack in his place of job. “That set of equipment – the gray one’s mine, the only subsequent to it’s my son’s. My entire existence is that this. If one thing has long past tremendously incorrect and the package’s guilty, then it impacts all my pals, no longer simply me professionally.” He pauses. “Phoning the police wasn’t one thing I took calmly. However I completely sought after to understand.”


Parachuting injuries occur, however they’re unusually uncommon. The British Parachute Affiliation (BPA), the game’s nationwide governing frame, estimates there have been 2.3m game jumps within the 10 years prior to Easter 2015. Of the ones, there have been 2,900 instances the place the reserve parachute needed to be deployed, and no longer a unmarried incident the place there was once additionally an issue with the reserve. In keeping with the BPA, the one recognized example of each a chief and reserve failing to function was once in relation to Stephen Hilder.

Hilder, a 20-year-old officer cadet, fell 13,000toes to his dying on four July 2003 in Hibaldstow in Lincolnshire. Any person had lower the risers on his reserve, and the police to begin with introduced a homicide inquiry, prior to concluding 10 months later that his dying was once almost definitely a suicide: no DNA instead of his personal was once discovered on his package, and the scissors used to chop the risers have been discovered within the boot of his automotive. It’s a tale that each and every severe skydiver is aware of, and one Cilliers alluded to right through his trial: he recommended his spouse would possibly have attempted to kill herself.

The coroner in Hilder’s case returned an open verdict, and lots of within the skydiving neighborhood have lengthy rejected the concept Hilder meant to kill himself; it’s extensively believed that he was once murdered. “There were a variety of suicides over time parachuting,” says Jeff Bernard Law Montgomery, the BPA’s protection and technical officer. However “Stephen Hilder did the whole lot to take a look at and save his existence: he went to function the principle however not anything took place, after which he operated his reserve. If you wish to kill your self, you don’t attempt to save your existence.”

The skydiving neighborhood is small. Each Bernard Law Montgomery and Bayada knew the Cilliers for years, however not one of the skilled skydivers I talk to turns out to have recognized them really well. Bernard Law Montgomery is an ordinary jumper at Netheravon and has been on workouts in a foreign country with Vicky. “She was once relationship Emile and after they married I’d had some kind of dealings with him, ‘Hello, how are you doing,’ all that kind of stuff. He stored himself to himself. I don’t have in mind considering there was once anything else extraordinary about him.”

Parachute harnesses at Netheravon

Parachute harnesses at Netheravon. Within the 10 years prior to 2015, there have been 2,900 incidents in Britain by which a reserve parachute needed to be deployed; there have been none by which it additionally failed. : Jon Tonks for the Mum or dad

“Such things as this simply don’t occur right here,” says DI Paul Franklin of Wiltshire police, who led the investigation. “Those are common folks with common jobs who reside in a pleasing area in a pleasing a part of the rustic.”

“Two-point-four youngsters, nuclear circle of relatives,” DC Maddie Hennah provides. “They appeared utterly standard. From the outdoor, anyway.”

I meet Franklin, Hennah and their colleague DS Mark Lewis at Melksham Police Divisional HQ, on an business property surrounded by means of fields. They’re smiling and comfy. It’s per week after Cilliers has been discovered accountable, and they’re visibly relieved to have cracked a once-in-a-career case.

However it didn’t really feel like a felony case to start with. After Bayada’s name, Franklin despatched an officer to the health center to invite Vicky questions whilst the BPA took a 2nd take a look at her parachute, however they didn’t be expecting a lot. “We concept they’d come again with some mechanical reason why – very unhappy, very sorry, however not anything incorrect right here. It bumbled alongside for a few days.”

Then they were given a telephone name from certainly one of Vicky’s pals. “They stated one thing wasn’t proper, that the connection between Victoria and Emile was once moderately poisonous,” Hennah tells me. “It was once a few weeks prior to I used to be in truth in a position to get a commentary, however when we were given it, issues took an excessively other flip.”

The buddy stated Vicky was once locked in a coercive courting with Cilliers. “There have been home abuse problems inside the courting that weren’t glaring from the outdoor,” Franklin says. “We’re no longer taking about black eyes and bruises, we’re speaking about unseen stuff.” The abuse adopted a standard development, Hennah explains. “You deal with any individual like a princess, and then you definately do one thing in reality unacceptable and underhand, however while you get came upon you deal with them like a princess once more. The lady helps to keep considering, he’s handled me in reality smartly, I’ll let him off with that one. After which it occurs once more. It turns into that she is so squashed by means of it that she simply accepts that that’s what existence is.”

Then the BPA showed Bayada’s findings, that there was once no mechanical reason why for the failure of Victoria’s parachute. On the identical time, there have been no fingerprints or DNA at the parachute linking it to Cilliers, and allegations of a poisonous courting don’t seem to be sufficient to convict a person of tried homicide. The investigation hinged on what Franklin calls “outdated detective paintings” to determine that Cilliers, who gave the impression each and every inch the accountable military guy, had the inducement and disposition to do one thing this preposterous.

On 28 April 2015, Hennah went to arrest Cilliers in his barracks in Aldershot. He had a glass-sided place of job that appeared out over the gymnasium the place he labored as a bodily coaching teacher, and Hennah was once with navy particular department when she searched it and took him into custody. When she advised him she was once arresting him on suspicion of tried homicide, he made no objection. He didn’t react in any respect. He didn’t need a solicitor.

Hennah interrogated him for 6 hours that night time. “He was once very, very confident,” she says. He published that he was once having an affair with Stefanie Goller, an Austrian skydiving teacher he’d met on Tinder whilst in a foreign country on a military snowboarding travel. He admitted he was once in debt to payday mortgage corporations. He additionally volunteered the truth that he had disappeared to the bathrooms for some time at the Saturday afternoon. He presented up each a reason and a method of homicide, as though he have been untouchable. “He was once very artful: he coated the entire issues he knew we have been going to find from taking a look at his telephone. He assumed we have been going to just accept what he was once announcing, and that he’d by no means see us once more.”

It were a gruelling day, specifically for any individual who will have to be being concerned about his significantly injured spouse. On the finish of the interview, Hennah requested him if he had anything else to mention. “He stated, ‘The worst section about nowadays was once that you just arrested me in entrance of my subordinates.’” Hennah’s eyes are huge at the back of her glasses. “At that time I will have in mind considering, this guy’s extraordinary.”

The simpler they were given to understand Cilliers, the extra that more or less reaction made sense. “He presentations the entire characteristics of a psychopath,” Franklin says. “Psychopath, sociopath, narcissist, excessive selfishness. He best cares about himself.”

About 1% of the inhabitants is believed to have psychopathic characteristics, characterized by means of egotism, a loss of regret and shortage of empathy. Whilst psychopathy is thought of as a character dysfunction, and will cross a way against explaining why Cilliers tried to homicide his spouse in such an elaborate approach, it’s not a mitigating issue and will’t be used as a defence; as Franklin says, “He’s no longer mentally in poor health, that’s simply his persona.”

After they had established it, the police used it to their benefit: they took recommendation from the Nationwide Crime Company on the most productive techniques to prevent him derailing long run interviews. “He’s like a political candidate: you’d ask a query and he wouldn’t provide you with an immediate resolution,” Hennah tells me. “He’d lead off in different places that you just’d suppose sounded in reality attention-grabbing.” They made a concerted effort to not fall for his distractions.

Whilst Hennah was once arresting Cilliers, DS Lewis was once informing Vicky that her husband was once their primary suspect. She was once by myself together with her infant and child, and fixed in a frame brace. The inside track devastated her. She didn’t perceive why the bail prerequisites avoided him from returning to the circle of relatives house, Lewis tells me. She simply sought after him again.

Cilliers’ telephone grew to become out to be a treasure trove for the investigation. It were lower than six months since he’d met Goller, however the two had controlled to interchange 32,000 messages right through that point. He’d advised her he had a closely pregnant spouse however insisted it was once some other guy’s child; after the start he falsely claimed to have had a DNA take a look at proving he wasn’t the daddy of his new child son. “To be with you I’d do anything else,” he advised Goller. “I can sacrifice and surrender such a lot for you… From April onwards I will do random and spontaneous.”

Austrian skydiving instructor Stefanie Goller

Cilliers met Austrian skydiving teacher Stefanie Goller on Tinder and advised her his youngest son was once some other guy’s kid. : Pixel

However Goller wasn’t the one individual Cilliers was once messaging. He was once snoozing together with his ex-wife, Carly Cilliers, mom to 2 of his older youngsters. Carly lived lower than a mile clear of him and Vicky in Amesbury; the 2 households shared childcare. He was once additionally a member of a website online known as Fabswingers, the place he attached with companions for informal intercourse, in addition to incessantly looking for intercourse employees on Adultwork.

“He may have a dialog together with his spouse about choosing up the youngsters or just a little of buying groceries concurrently arranging to satisfy any individual he is aware of from Fabswingers for some weekend a laugh, and ringing any individual from Adultwork to peer if they’re to be had,” Franklin says. “3 utterly separate conversations on the identical time, controlled in one of these approach that there was once by no means a incorrect telephone name to the incorrect individual. Whilst you see that repeated continuously for years, you spot what sort of individual he was once.”

The police have been in a position to determine that Cilliers was once £22,000 in debt, however they believe the true overall was once some distance upper; he moved cash round his many accounts every day, weaving a internet that was once nearly unimaginable for monetary investigators to unpick. He owed cash to payday lenders, former paintings colleagues and his spouse: over their seven-year courting she had lent him greater than £19,000, which he was once meant to pay again with an ordinary status order, however continuously didn’t. After he helped himself to £6,000 from her financial savings account, he claimed her account were hacked. The financial institution investigated, and traced the IP deal with used within the transaction to the circle of relatives’s house pc.

Cilliers were cautious to spend money on Vicky’s existence insurance coverage: he had added her to his personal military coverage and made certain she had the utmost conceivable quilt. He didn’t know that this is able to be all he was once in line to obtain within the tournament of her dying: acutely aware of his spending issues, she had lower him out of her will in overdue 2014, leaving the whole lot to their two youngsters.

Franklin and Lewis went to talk over with Vicky once more. They advised her best that her husband was once having an affair, that he had meant to depart her for his lover, and that he had denied their son was once his. “I assumed that may be sufficient for her to peer that there was once one thing significantly incorrect and he or she had to take a step again, agree with the police and settle for he couldn’t come house,” Franklin says. It labored – for that night time, a minimum of. That was once when she advised them concerning the gasoline leak.

One morning six days prior to the parachute bounce, Vicky smelled gasoline in her kitchen. Cilliers wasn’t house: he’d left his circle of relatives asleep upstairs to spend the night time at his barracks (he advised Vicky he’d sought after to keep away from the early morning visitors, however had in truth spent the night time together with his ex-wife, texting his female friend after which contacting prostitutes). Vicky checked the gasoline valve within the kitchen cabinet subsequent to the oven and noticed blood on it. She messaged Cilliers, asking if he’d touched it. “Are you seeking to bump me off?” she joked. Cilliers admonished her for suggesting it. However forensic exam of the valve proved the blood was once his, and that pressure were used best to loosen the valve, and to not tighten it. This was once the one piece of forensic proof police had that confirmed Cilliers had attempted to kill his spouse. It additionally confirmed he didn’t care if his youngsters have been killed along her.

It was once greater than two years prior to the case got here to courtroom. It had taken 9 months for the small police staff to plow through the tens of 1000’s of pages of information they’d extracted from Cilliers’ telephone. It then took some other 9 months for the Crown Prosecution Carrier to check the investigation and make a decision the case was once sturdy sufficient for a sensible probability of conviction.

However Vicky sought after to position the occasions of April 2015 at the back of her. By the point she gave proof on the first trial, she was once now not cooperating with the investigation. She advised the courtroom she’d exaggerated in her preliminary statements to the police, that Emile were within the bathrooms with the parachute for best 5 mins, no longer 10. “I made it sound worse than it was once as a result of I used to be humiliated. I sought after him to undergo,” she stated.


There have been no pals or circle of relatives in courtroom supporting Cilliers right through both trial, no persona witnesses to problem the prosecution’s depiction of him. His military colleagues is not going to touch upon him, apart from to mention he’s been discharged, “in step with standard process when a soldier is sentenced to imprisonment”.

However Nicolene Shepherd is aware of Cilliers smartly. She grew up with him in South Africa, was once his on-off female friend for 10 years, and is the mum of the oldest two of his six youngsters. They began going out when she was once 13 and he was once 17; it was once Shepherd’s first sexual courting.

“He was once charismatic and captivating,” she tells me. We talk over the telephone from her house in Somerset, the place she settled greater than a decade in the past. “He was once excellent taking a look – he had much more hair then. He had those great, inexperienced eyes. Numerous women preferred him.”

They grew up in Ermelo, a small the city east of Johannesburg, the place the church was once the centre of the neighborhood and “everyone knew everyone’s trade”. Cilliers labored for his father’s development corporate and had a number of disposable money. “He at all times needed to have the most recent units. When cellphones first got here out, he was once the primary to have them.” The Cilliers she knew was once used to getting no matter he sought after, and was once at all times in pursuit of his subsequent giant prize, whether or not that was once an object or a girl.

When Shepherd was once 16, she gave start to their daughter, Cilene, in 2000. She was once pregnant with their son, Trevor, six months later. Cilliers left South Africa for a running vacation in England whilst Shepherd was once pregnant with their son. He promised he’d come again they usually’d be folks in combination, however as a substitute met and married Carly, and joined the military. He left it to his mom to damage the inside track to Shepherd, then made no try to keep up a correspondence together with her, or their youngsters.

Nicolene Shepherd

Nicolene Shepherd met Cilliers in South Africa when she was once 13, and had two youngsters with him. : Solent Information & Photograph Company

Shepherd moved to the United Kingdom in March 2004. She had no goal of constructing touch with Cilliers, and says she best did so in 2006 when Cilene, then six, started asking questions on her father. Via that point, he and Carly had two youngsters of their very own. “When he grew to become up, it was once all about how he best married Carly as a result of his visa was once operating out, and the way he was once in the midst of divorcing her. After which we began reminiscing about outdated occasions. He was once very captivating,” she says, sheepishly. “We were given again in combination.”

However Cilliers wasn’t in the midst of divorcing Carly, as Shepherd found out when he went to paintings sooner or later and left his telephone in her conservatory, and Carly rang. When the 2 girls realised they’d been lied to, they determined Shepherd will have to cross over to Carly’s area so they may confront Cilliers in combination. “If appears to be like may kill I’d were useless that day,” Shepherd says. “He requested me, in Afrikaans, ‘What the fuck are you doing right here?’”

Their courting ended the similar day, however she says he stored texting her, pestering her to peer him once more. She met some other guy, were given married, had 3 extra youngsters and adjusted her telephone quantity, however Cilliers nonetheless tracked her down on Fb.

“He doesn’t like to learn no,” Shepherd tells me. “He’s used to having his personal approach.” She then casually provides a element that turns my abdomen. “I used to be a 16-year-old lady, I’d simply had a C-section, and 10 days later we have been sexually lively once more as it was once what he sought after. Taking a look again on that now, I know the way disgusting and perilous this is. Whether or not he didn’t get it or didn’t care, I don’t know. That’s what he sought after in order that’s what he were given.”


Vicky Cilliers was once provide when her husband was once sentenced to existence in jail for seeking to kill her and for recklessly endangering their youngsters, however requested that her sufferer affect commentary wasn’t learn out in open courtroom. Sufferer affect statements are used to assist a pass judgement on make a decision the best way to sentence a culprit, and whilst the contents of Vicky’s commentary weren’t made public, it’s believed that she attempted to get a extra lenient sentence for her husband. In the meantime, a pre‑sentence document on Cilliers assessed him as posing a top chance to adults, specifically companions. In sentencing, the pass judgement on, Mr Justice Sweeney, seen that Vicky gave the impression “to have recovered from the bodily hurt however no longer, having observed her within the witness field at period, from the mental hurt”.

Within the days right away after Cilliers was once discovered accountable, Vicky gave paid interviews to 2 tabloid newspapers and gave the impression on Excellent Morning Britain, to mention that she didn’t settle for the decision. She has stated not anything since then, and declined to remark for this text.

“I’ve to move, I guess, with the decision,” she stated on the time. “It’s nearly like peer force to adapt. My circle of relatives, pals, everybody turns out to suppose they know greater than I do. They see other proof to me,” she stated on the time. “He’d been untrue, he’d had problems with cash, however that’s not tried homicide. Sure, I’m harm and offended, however can I see him as in a position to homicide? No.” She described Cilliers as “a passionate, intense alpha male solider,” and “a intercourse addict”.

“I don’t suppose it’s dependancy as such, he simply loves to get what he desires,” Shepherd says. She was once horrified to find her old flame was once in a position to homicide, however no longer stunned. “To you and me it’s a existence – to him it’s simply an object, simply one thing in the way in which.”

For the police, this is a bittersweet victory: they’ve completed justice for a sufferer who doesn’t in reality need it, in a case that gave the impression nearly too far-fetched to be actual. “It’s like a James Bond, however extra excessive,” Hennah says. “If Mark Bayada hadn’t collected the proof and flagged it up, and if any individual who knew her hadn’t rung us as much as say, one thing’s no longer proper right here – he really well could have were given away with it.”

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