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Skydive murder plot wife’s new hunky Royal Marine lover

This is the new love interest of a woman who survived a 3,000ft fall after her cheating husband tried to kill her by tampering with her parachute, MailOnline can reveal.

Victoria Cilliers, 44, looked blissfully happy as she strolled along with Simon Goodman, a Royal Marines Commando whom she has known for nine years.

The couple has grown close over the last 18 months – since Ms Cilliers’ former husband Emile was jailed for life in 2018 for her attempted murder – and even spent lockdown together.

A friend of Ms Cilliers told MailOnline: ‘They have been together for a while and they are very happy.’  

Wearing a floaty summer dress and sandals, Ms Cilliers appeared entirely at ease with her new partner as they walked through their home town of Amesbury in Wiltshire this week.

Smiling broadly as they carried bags of shopping, the couple chatted before Mr Goodman, in a white skydiving t-shirt, placed a protective arm around her.

The 49-year-old colour sergeant, whom Ms Cilliers referred to recently as her ‘rock’, then helped her load bags into the car outside a local bakery. 

The couple met at nearby Netheravon Airfield, the scene of Ms Cilliers horror plunge in 2015 and where both are keen skydivers.

Motörhead fan Mr Goodman is originally from Taunton, Somerset and has a decorated 29-year career in the Royal Marines, one of the Royal Navy’s most elite units.

On his social media, the daredevil jumper has posted a number of images of him posing in mid-air as well as photographs of him in military attire.

He and Ms Cilliers live on the same modern housing development, although he decided to live at her house during Covid.

MailOnline approached both but they declined to comment.

However in an interview earlier this week with the Daily Mail to serialise her book, I Survived, Ms Cilliers, a former army captain turned physio for the Ministry of Defence, spoke from the heart about her new man.

Recalling their time together during the coronavirus outbreak, she said: ‘We lived in our little bubble. It was good.

‘He’s been my rock throughout the whole Covid thing. I try not to rely on him too much emotionally but practically he’s brilliant.

‘The children love and respect him. They’re always excited to see him and he plays sports with them — cycling, rugby, kids’ cricket.

‘We have a similar circle of friends and I’ve known him for nine years, which is the only way it would ever have worked because of the trust issues. And I haven’t had to explain anything.

‘He’s been aware of everything right from the start. I don’t think I could have dated someone who didn’t know. The thought of explaining about my past would have been too much.

‘He’s 49, he’s never been married, he has no kids and he’s a parachutist with a military background. The romance has been quite a slow process and it’s developed over the past 18 months.‘

Ms Cilliers, who has an nine-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, joked that he was not a ‘charmer’ adding: ‘I’ve had a surfeit of romanticism and he didn’t bombard me with attention and affection.

‘I look for constancy and consistency now and he’s not gushy or demonstrative, which actually makes me feel more comfortable.

‘But I think I’m open to loving someone again. An existence without love would be sad. It’s just that I’m not going into it with rose-tinted spectacles this time.’

A veteran of 2,500 jumps and a former parachute instructor, Ms Cilliers suffered near-fatal injuries in the failed jump at Netheravon Airfield, the headquarters of the British Parachute Association, on April 5, 2015.

Her former husband, 40-year-old Emile Cilliers, a sergeant in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, was found to have sabotaged both her main and reserve parachutes causing them to malfunction and her to spin out of control in the air before slamming into the ground.

She miraculously survived but suffered spinal injuries and a broken leg, collarbone and ribs.

It was the second attempt on her life within a week.

Cilliers had earlier tried to kill his wife and pocket a £120,000 life insurance policy by tampering with a gas valve at their home when both of their children were also present.

He had left for his barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire but fortunately Ms Cilliers noticed the smell of gas and rectified the situation. 

Days later he tried again, suggesting they both do an Easter weekend skydive together.

Their first attempt at Netheravon, which is just outside Salisbury, Wiltshire and close to Stone Henge, was cancelled on that Saturday due to bad weather.

However, rather than return his wife’s parachute rig to the store, he took the equipment into the toilet and damaged both chutes.

He twisted the lines on the main one and then removed parts of the reserve before putting it in her locker ready for use the next day.

She proceeded to jump on Easter Sunday without him – only surviving due to her slight eight-stone frame and the fact she landed on a soft, recently ploughed field.

During their seven-year marriage, Cilliers had been cheating on her with prostitutes, his mistress Stefanie Goller, whom he went skiing with, and his first wife Carly.

He was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 18-years, in June 2018 after being convicted of two charges of attempted murder and third of recklessly endangering life following a retrial at Winchester Crown Court.

Even from his prison cell, Emile Cilliers has continued to manipulate his wife Vicky — the woman he twice tried to murder — denying her a divorce, stalling her efforts to rebuild her life; even attempting to inveigle his way back into her affections.

Cilliers’ monstrous effrontery is matched by the heinousness of his crimes. 

First, he turned on the gas tap at the family home in Wiltshire in the hope of blowing up Vicky, while also recklessly endangering the lives of their baby son and young daughter who were with her at the time. And when that failed to work, he plotted a more audacious murder.

Cajoling Vicky, a professional skydiver, into doing a parachute jump, he covertly tampered with her rig so both her main parachute and the reserve failed to inflate. 

Vicky — a veteran of 2,500 jumps — spun wildly, willing herself not to die as she plummeted 3,000 ft to the ground.

Her survival was a miracle: she fractured almost all her ribs in the fall, her pelvis was broken and her right lung collapsed. Her slight build and the softness of the newly ploughed field that broke her fall saved her life.

But it took several years for Vicky to accept that her husband, whom she knew to be an inveterate cheat and philanderer, was also guilty of trying to kill her. In fact, it was not until the judge at Cilliers’ trial called him ‘a person of quite exceptional callousness who will stop at nothing to satisfy his own desires, material or otherwise’ that the truth began to impinge on Vicky.

The ‘charming’ man she had married was, in fact an ‘evil’ psychopath who had devised an elaborate plot to be shot of her so he could pocket her £120,000 life insurance policy and begin a new life with a lover.

Cilliers, who still maintains his innocence and has not shown a scintilla of remorse, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2018. He will serve at least 18 years.

‘It took a lot for me to finally recognise that he must have done it. How could someone I’d married, loved and had children with have done something that despicable?’ she says now, her voice quiet and steady; her demeanour composed.

Petite and fine-boned — she weighs just 8 st — with ice-blue eyes and porcelain skin, her apparent fragility belies immense physical courage and a spine of steel. 

She is intensely private, wary of censure, apprehensive that she will be judged for having been ‘a mug’, for stubbornly believing in Cilliers’ innocence for so long.

‘The hardest thing of all to admit was that he’d put our children’s lives at risk. Accepting that, voicing it, is harrowing. It was awful contemplating that he had tried to kill me and leave the children without their mum, but devastating on another level knowing that he had also been reckless about their safety.

‘The pivotal point — the moment when I started to think he was guilty — was when the judge gave his damning summary. And with the sentencing reality began to dawn.

‘After the court found him guilty, I had contact with him for probably six to eight weeks. I went to see him a few times in prison, trying to get my head round it all. But he wanted to see me more regularly. It got to the point where I felt he was tightening his grip on me again. A year and a half ago I decided, ‘That’s enough. I want a divorce.’ I didn’t want contact with him. I wanted to move on with my life.

‘But he wouldn’t sign the divorce papers. He said he wanted more time to discuss the viability of the marriage.’

The idea that he thought they had a future together is so preposterous it makes me gasp.

She still lives with their children April, nine, and Ben, five, in the neat, red-bricked detached house near the Army town of Amesbury, where she spent her ill-fated marriage.

‘So 18 months on I’m no further forward,’ continues Vicky. ‘I’m still married to him. I still have his name. I still feel shackled to him. I want to be able to move out of the house, to move on and restart my life completely, perhaps in another country. But I’m still here, living in the marital home, and there are memories of him at every turn: in the paint colours, the curtains; the furniture we chose together.

‘I’ve tried to make the home my own as much as possible. I’ve shoved a lot of his stuff in the bin. Pictures, things he’s given me.

‘I’ve started the process of getting myself ready and strong to move but he still has to exert control. He’s destroyed my credit rating and the whole process of rebuilding myself financially has taken time.

‘Once we’re actually divorced, I’ll have more confidence but he has done everything to procrastinate. When he was first in prison he’d say, ‘You’re all I’ve got now.’ He was still trying to manipulate, to control me.

‘He says he wants to appeal; if not against the conviction, then the length of his sentence, and I feel apprehensive. If his sentence is cut and he’s released . . .’ her voice tails off.

I ask if she fears he could try to kill her again. She nods. ‘But once we’re divorced, he’s not a British national (Cilliers was born and raised in South Africa) so I hope he’ll be deported. I’d like him out of the country.’

Cilliers’ attempted murder of Vicky, 44, a former Army captain and physiotherapist who now works for the Ministry of Defence, ranks among the most shocking and intriguing crimes of recent history; not least because it was elaborately planned and premeditated —and also because he almost got away with it.

Today, she is speaking fully for the first time about the husband she concedes ‘has something evil in his psyche’. 

She reveals that she has a new partner — an old friend with a military background who is also a parachutist — and talks about the fresh start, incognito and in a secret location, she plans for herself and her children.

Her interview coincides with the publication of her explosive new book, called I Survived and serialised exclusively in the Mail this week, which is an utterly gripping and harrowing account of her marriage, told for the first time through her own eyes.

Sandhurst graduate Vicky charts how the glib charm of a man who proposed extravagantly in a cheetah sanctuary fragmented into cold-hearted callousness once she was hooked.

While she was heavily pregnant with Ben, he left her as he went on a ‘work trip’ which, it transpired, was actually a skiing holiday with his mistress Stefanie Goller.

She sees this episode as the nadir of a relationship blighted by low points.

‘I felt this all-encompassing despair, like a heavy, dragging sensation,’ she tells me. ‘And it seemed even more unfair that I didn’t have the luxury of not being in the world because I was pregnant with a young child to look after.’

I ask if she means suicide crossed her mind. She nods almost imperceptibly.

‘I was working full-time and struggling with my pregnancy and looking after our daughter and he’d come up with these ridiculous reasons for going away ‘for work’. I knew it was with a girl and everything was crumbling,’ she says.

Now she realises she was the victim of an insidious form of coercive control. ‘His constant lying and the fact I had never dealt with it made me feel weak. His infidelity made me feel totally worthless — but I was trapped.’

In the wake of her near-death experience, she ran through a gamut of emotions: ‘First there was denial, then anger, which went on for years on and off, but it’s hard because you had to keep it bottled up and not show the children.

‘I was very angry, too, with his ex-wife Carly because she was all-knowing and her deceit was just sickening. She and Emile were playing happy families.’

Vicky — who had an amicable relationship with Carly who looked after Vicky’s children occasionally — had no idea Emile was having sex with his ex-wife.

‘I still feel angry with Stefanie, too. Emile told her that Ben wasn’t his son and that was an incredibly hurtful lie — one of his worst — because for me, the most important thing in a relationship is trust and I was never unfaithful to him.

‘Stefanie worked in the skydiving world and it would have been very easy for her to ascertain that everything he told her about me was a lie. But she was wilfully blind.’

I ask if she believes Emile is capable of love. ‘I don’t know. But I like to think he loves his children,’ she says. ‘I hope he does.’

She speaks, too, of the new man in her life — whom she will not identify — and the fact that she and the kids have spent lockdown at her home with him.

‘We lived in our little bubble. It was good,’ she says. ‘He’s been my rock throughout the whole Covid thing. I try not to rely on him too much emotionally but practically he’s brilliant.

‘The children love and respect him. They’re always excited to see him and he plays sports with them — cycling, rugby, kids’ cricket.

‘We have a similar circle of friends and I’ve known him for nine years, which is the only way it would ever have worked because of the trust issues. And I haven’t had to explain anything. He’s been aware of everything right from the start. I don’t think I could have dated someone who didn’t know. The thought of explaining about my past would have been too much.

‘He’s 49, he’s never been married, he has no kids and he’s a parachutist with a military background. The romance has been quite a slow process and it’s developed over the past 18 months.

‘He’s not a charmer either.’ She laughs. ‘I’ve had a surfeit of romanticism and he didn’t bombard me with attention and affection. I look for constancy and consistency now and he’s not gushy or demonstrative, which actually makes me feel more comfortable.

‘But I think I’m open to loving someone again. An existence without love would be sad. It’s just that I’m not going into it with rose-tinted spectacles this time.’

She says, too, that she is more circumspect about money now.

‘I wouldn’t have a shared bank account or rely on someone else to pay bills in my name. I never want to be financially vulnerable again. I make sure I can provide for my children.’

I wonder if she is suspicious, wary of betrayal, and she smiles.

‘When you’ve had a cheating husband you know the signs. I’m happy and secure,’ she says.

One of the extraordinary things about Vicky — aside from her grit and resilience — is her determination not to become embittered. Many women in her position would have expunged every vestige of their husband’s existence from their home. She is more considered.

‘I didn’t think it fair to dump everything. I’ve selected a few photos and memories for the children to keep if they want.

‘I can’t vilify him. I don’t want them to grow up angry. I want to maintain a happy home environment without hate or negativity, and I don’t want to become bitter and twisted.’

The children have been told the sparest details about their father. ‘I said to April, ‘He tried to hurt Mummy.’ She knows he did a bad thing and he’s in prison, being punished. She doesn’t talk much about him. Children are matter-of-fact about these things.

‘As soon as I’d given her the answers she needed, she went off and played with her brother.

‘And Ben has no memories of his dad. Neither of the children asks about him, although he wants to maintain contact with them.’

She recognises that, as they get older, they will learn more and seek answers but she has not yet confronted that. ‘I’ll deal with it when we come to it,’ she says.

She is pragmatic but also remarkably even-handed. Adamant that she does not want to deny her children access to their paternal grandparents, she says: ‘They are decent people. They haven’t done anything wrong. We still exchange messages occasionally.

‘They still believe he is innocent and his mum plans to visit England [from South Africa where they live] next year.’

She seems, for a woman who has been coerced and betrayed so shockingly, remarkably well-adjusted. She admits that she ‘struggles’ to watch programmes about medical emergencies on TV and will occasionally replay in her mind the day she fell out of the sky.

Her physical health, too, has suffered. ‘Some days I just hurt. I can’t give the children piggybacks. I can’t sit for long. I have pins in my pelvis, two screws at the back and quite fancy chain-mail pinned into place around the front.

‘If I wanted more children, I’d have to have all the metalwork out. But I’m too old for that game.’ She laughs.

She has worried, incessantly, about the way she is perceived. Extraordinarily, during the court cases she received hate mail.

‘It caused me such anxiety,’ she says. ‘But now I’m coming round to thinking that the people who matter know the real me.’

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