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Trial opens into skydiver death

A skydiver accused of killing her love rival by sabotaging her parachute has gone on trial in Belgium.

Prosecutors say jealousy drove Els Clottemans to kill Els Van Doren, with whom she shared a passion for skydiving and a lover.

Clottemans, 26, denies the murder charges and accusations that she killed Van Doren to have the lover, another Dutch skydiver, to herself.

The case has captured the imagination of Belgians since Van Doren fell 13,000ft into a suburban garden in eastern Belgium when her parachute failed to open on November 18, 2006.

A married mother-of-two and skydiving enthusiast, Van Doren had jumped from a plane with Clottemans, their Dutch lover and another skydiver. Clottemans jumped a fraction too late and did not join in airborne stunts with the other three. When the sign was given to open the parachutes, Van Doren struggled with the cords, before hurling toward the ground.

Clottemans became a prime suspect when she attempted suicide hours before she was to make a second statement to police, a month after the incident. The investigation revealed that Clottemans had a relationship with the same skydiver as Van Doren.

Prosecutors allege that Clottemans tampered with Van Doren's parachute and cut two vital cords. No hard evidence has surfaced so far to support the murder charge, but prosecutors hope circumstantial links will secure a conviction.

The chief defence lawyer Vic Van Aelst said prosecutors "have nothing" to tie his client to the death.

"They have to prove they have something, but they are trying to do it since four years and it is not going very well for them," Mr Van Aelst said.

The trial opened with jury selection and is expected to last a month. Media interest was such that a room next to the courthouse had to be used for journalists to follow the proceedings through remote video.

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