Belgian parachute killer given 30 years in prison
A 26-year-old woman was jailed for 30 years yesterday 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 northeastern 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 Ms 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.
Ms 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 Ms Clottemans had the motive – jealousy – and the technical know-how to disable the parachute used by Mrs Van Doren.
The two women were members of the same skydiving club and shared the same lover, Marcel Somers.
Mrs 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 Ms Clottemans jumped too late, leaving the others to form a trio.
But when the three separated to open their parachutes, Mrs Van Doren’s failed to open.
Police arrested Ms Clottemans in January 2007, saying she had been staying with her lover a week before the fatal jump when Mrs 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 Mrs Van Doren had left her parachute.
Investigators said Mrs Van Doren’s parachute had been interfered with and that two straps were cut.
Ms 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.