Skydiving instructor Victoria Cilliers, whose husband twice attempted to kill her by tampering with her parachute and sabotaging a gas valve at their home, has vowed not to let her life be “eaten up with hate and bitterness” as she tries to build a new future for herself and her children.
The 42-year-old, originally from East Lothian, still finds it difficult to believe the “passionate, intense” army sergeant she married could do what he did.
Emile Cilliers, 38, was convicted at Winchester Crown Court last week of two counts of attempted murder and is due to be sentence next month.
The court heard how he had debts of £22,000 and wanted to use money from his wife’s life insurance policy, worth £120,000 in the event of her accidental death, to start a new life with his lover Stefanie Goller.
Victoria, a former Edinburgh Academy pupil from Haddington, said: “I have to go with, I suppose, the verdict. It’s too big to get my head around. It’s hard to comprehend that someone you get married to and have children with would be capable of that.
“Yes I’m hurt and angry, but can I see him as capable of murder? No. I am going to grieve for the marriage I had and the end of the life that I had.
“I’ll always care for the father of my children, and I loved him, I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with him.
“I just don’t really want to cope with it. I love the husband I used to have and not the one he became.
“I don’t know the man today. I have seen him in court but not spoken to him in three years. I never considered he could be responsible.”
She described how she had enjoyed a “passionate” marriage with Cilliers, an army sergeant, and their six-year-old daughter had been “his world”.
But in 2015, after she became pregnant with their son, now three, Cilliers had gone on an army skiing holiday and returned “a completely different person”.
It later emerged he had contacted skydiving instructor Stefanie on dating app Tinder and was also secretly sleeping with his first wife Carly Cilliers, 37, and messaging prostitutes.
Victoria said: “I knew there was stuff - other women on chat sites he contacted and I had seen messages on his laptop.
“I also knew he had met up with women and I was planning on confronting him. But you have to fight your battles at the right time and, being heavily pregnant, it wasn’t the right time. He was very affectionate but he’d stopped saying he loved me as often.
“It seems like he was a sex addict.”
She said she felt betrayed by Cilliers’ first wife, who had two with children him. “Carly and I used to share childcare duties. While Emile and I were together I saw her on probably a weekly basis.”
And on Stefanie, whom she has met through skydiving, she added: “She is part of the betrayal. For the affair and what my children have to deal with.”
Victoria survived a 4000ft fall at Netheravon airfield in Wiltshire with a broken pelvis, ribs and vertebrae despite the lines to the main canopy of her parachute being twisted and her reserve chute having vital parts missing.
She described her shock when police explained the full extent of Cilliers’ double life.
“I remember taking off my rings and throwing them across the room. I was angry, incredibly angry,” she said.
But she felt little emotion when seeing him in court. “I felt quite detached really. I didn’t feel like I acquainted that person with my old husband.”
The children have not seen their father since he was charged. Victoria said: “That’s what upsets me and hurts me more than anything - the effect on the children. You want your children to grow up untainted.”
But she believes she can build a “normal family life” for them.
“I try and keep any minor meltdowns I’m having to when the children are asleep.
“I just don’t want to spend my life being eaten up with hate and bitterness. I’ve simply got to move on and draw a line under it.”