Belgian parachute killer given 30 years in prison

A 26-year-old woman was jailed for 30 years for killing a rival in a love triangle by sabotaging her parachute in a case that captivated Belgium.

Brussels: A 26-year-old woman was jailed for
30 years on Thursday for killing a rival in a love triangle by
sabotaging her parachute in a case that captivated Belgium.

Els Clottemans, a Flemish school teacher, was handed the
sentence at a court in the north-eastern town of Tongeren one
day after a jury found her guilty of murdering Els Van Doren,
38, by causing her to plunge to her death in 2006.

The prosecution had demanded a life sentence for
Clottemans, who will be allowed to seek a conditional release
from prison for good conduct after serving one-third of her
sentence, or around 10 years.

"Els Van Doren saw her death coming 4,000 metres from the
ground, as if you had pushed her from the top of the Mont
Blanc," prosecutor Patrick Boyen said.

Clottemans, who maintained her innocence throughout the
trial, was found guilty despite a lack of material evidence.

The 12 jurors agreed with the prosecution that Clottemans
had the motive and the technical know-how to disable the
parachute used by Van Doren.

The two women were members of the same skydiving club and
shared the same lover, Marcel Somers.

Van Doren, an experienced skydiver and married mother of
two, plunged to her death in a garden when her parachute
failed to open on November 18, 2006.

On the fatal day, 12 skydivers boarded a Cessna and both
women along with Somers and another man were supposed to join
together in the air, but Clottemans jumped too late, leaving
the others to form a trio.

But when the three separated and opened their parachutes,
Van Doren`s failed to open.

Police arrested Clottemans in January 2007, saying she
had been staying with her lover a week before the fatal jump
when Van Doren too showed up.

Investigators said Somers spent the night with Van Doren,
throwing the younger woman out of his room and forcing her to
sleep on a mattress in the living room, where Van Doren had
left her parachute.

Investigators said Van Doren`s parachute had been
interfered with and that two straps were cut.

Clottemans denied interfering with the parachute,
insisting that investigators were blinded by the belief she
acted out of jealousy. She says there was no proof, no
witnesses and no confession to bear out the charge.

"I am really innocent. I can only repeat it," Clottemans
told the court before the verdict was read yesterday. "From
the beginning, I was found guilty for something horrible which
I really did not commit."


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