Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Woman guilty over parachute murder

Els Clottemans wipes a tear as she is found guilty of murder. (AP)

A jealous schoolteacher has been found guilty of murder for sabotaging the parachute of a rival in a love triangle, causing her to crash to her death.

The verdict against Els Clottemans, 26, ended a month-long trial that revealed no hard proof that she had sabotaged Els Van Doren's parachute so that neither it nor a safety chute opened during a jump on November 18 2006 over eastern Belgium.

Ms Van Doren, 38, jumped that day with 11 other parachutists, including Clottemans, from a small plane flying at 30,000 feet.

The 12 jurors agreed with the prosecution that the evidence was circumstantial, but overwhelming.

They agreed that jealousy was a motive: the killer and her victim were intimately involved with the same man, a Dutch skydiver, whom Clottemans wanted for herself.

She and Ms Van Doren were members of the same parachute club.

During the trial, the jury was told that Clottemans, an accomplished skydiver, knew how to disable a parachute.

Evidence showed she also sent anonymous letters about Ms Van Doren's love life to mutual friends and is psychologically unstable, having attempted suicide in December 2006.

Sentencing is set for Thursday. Clottemans faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Her trial opened on September 24 with the accused sitting nervously near the mud-caked parachute bag and helmet that Ms Van Doren wore on the day she died.

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