The Fall: The Skydive Murder Plot hailed for shining spotlight on coercive control

Victoria Cilliers spoke to the Channel 4 documentary about why it took her so long to believe her husband tried to kill her.

Pictured: Victoria Cilliers interview
Victoria Cilliers did not believe her husband had tried to murder her as she was being manipulated. (Channel 4)

The Fall: The Skydive Murder Plot has been hailed for shining a spotlight on coercive control.

Victoria Cilliers, an experienced skydiver, spoke to the Channel 4 documentary about her experience after her husband tried to kill her on Easter Sunday, 5 April 2015 by tampering with her parachute. The three part documentary revealed how police were unable to use Victoria Cilliers as a reliable witness in the prosecution of her husband, Emile Cilliers, because she was in a coercive relationship with him and was being manipulated by him.

The documentary spoke to his previous partner Nicolene Shepherd, with whom he had two children, who the police also interviewed ahead of Emile's retrial to demonstrate he was a narcissistic abuser and a "master manipulator."

Pictured: Nicolene Shepherd interview
Emile's previous girlfriend Nicolene Shepherd spoke about her coercive relationship with Emile. (Channel 4)

Victoria Cilliers admitted that in her court evidence she did her best to protect her husband, who the police believed had attempted to murder her. She said: "I was very careful not to give answers that would incriminate Emile."

Detective Inspector Paul Franklin said: "For the retrial we knew we couldn't rely on Vicky's testimony. From her behaviour we could tell she was being manipulated and controlled. We knew we had to get across to the jury, she was under the spell of Emile. Emile was a master manipulator."

Shepherd said of her relationship with Emile: "I was really mean to myself, I spoke to myself in a manner that I wouldn't speak to anyone else. I don't know how to put it into words, just taking the blame feeling stupid, telling myself that I was worthless and that I deserved the way he treated me."

After Emile was convicted Victoria Cilliers told Good Morning Britain: "I'm struggling" to accept that he was guilty. She said: "I loved the husband I had, and I'm grieving for that marriage."

Victoria even went to visit him in prison. She said: "I think the picture that Emile was painting was trying to get me back to that original marriage where everything was the fairy tale and we could still have the future together. His desolation in that situation and reaching out to me saying I'm the only one that's sticking by him, he knew how to manipulate me right to the core."

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

Victoria said after he was sentenced: "I was in a safer place to let myself go there and start processing it. And things started slotting into place." She revealed after he was sentenced he kept phoning her and demanding more of her time: "I said I don't want this marriage anymore, I want a divorce. I want out. And just put the phone down."

She added it felt "I just felt free. Like a big weight had been lifted off me. That was the end for me. He'd let me say goodbye to the children knowing that I wouldn't come back, and he was going to bring up the children knowing what he'd done to their mother. I don't understand how you could do that to someone you loved." She said she no longer had any doubts he tampered with the parachute.

At the end of the documentary Victoria returned to the site of the parachute jump and revealed she had been on one last skydive, because she did not want Emile's attempt on her life to be her lasting memory of parachute jumping. She said: "I was absolutely terrified. But once we left the aircraft it was absolutely incredible, that rush as the air hits you, it was pure joy. Freedom."

Pictured: Maddy Hennah and DI Paul Franklin
DC Maddy Hennah and DI Paul Franklin helped convict Emile Cilliers after demonstrating to the jury that he was a narcissistic abuser. (Channel 4)

Viewers praised the show for highlighting the reality for women living in a coercive relationship.

One wrote on social media platform X: "Tonight's #thefall really digs into #coercivecontrol. It's a powerful, impactful episode. Incredible that Victoria Cilliers was brave enough to take part. And dogged work from detectives Paul Franklin and Maddy Hennah to get this to trial then conviction." Another said: "What a chilling person he is. Glad that she is brave enough to tell her story now. This might help other people #TheFall" One shared: "#thefall ooh hard watch.. #narcissistabuse" And another commented: "I quite liked the disjointed elements of #thefall documentary. The point of a complete psychopath plotting their supposed loved one's murder most horrific seems to be lost on edgy media critic types. #maleviolence all immense respect to the victim."

Detective Inspector Paul Franklin said: "Coercive control is really difficult to prove as a detective, but it's so insidious it's worth the time and effort. If you can find that evidence and convict them its a fantastic feeling. And the freedom you give to that person cannot be underestimated. You've given them their life back."

Detective Constable Maddy Hennah said: "If you leave a relationship that's dysfunctional, you'll always carry the scars from the relationship."

The Fall: The Skydive Murder Plot is available to watch on Channel 4.