A 26-YEAR-OLD Belgian schoolteacher has been found guilty of killing her romantic rival by sabotaging her parachute in a skydiving love-triangle.
Els Clottemans sat stony-faced as the jury’s verdict was read out following a trial that has gripped the country.
Clottemans, who claimed her innocence again before the verdict, faces between three years to life in prison. The sentence will be decided today.
The victim’s husband and two teenage children, Karol and Vincent, hugged each other as the verdict was read while Clottemans’ mother wept on the opposite side of the court, according to Belga news agency.
The jurors replied “yes” to the question of her guilt and as to whether the crime was premeditated, judge Michel Jordans said in a televised verdict.
“I am really innocent. I can only repeat it,” Clottemans told the court on Wednesday.
“From the beginning, I was found guilty for something horrible which I really did not commit.”
Clottemans stood trial in the Flemish town of Tongres for the death of 38-year-old Els Van Doren, a mother-of-three and experienced skydiver who plunged to her death in a garden when her parachute failed to open on November 18, 2006.
Investigators said both of Van Doren’s parachutes had been interfered with and that two straps were cut.
Van Doren shared a passion with Clottemans for skydiving, as well as for the same man, Marcel Somers.
On the day of the accident, 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 the latter, 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.
Clottemans denied interfering with the parachute and says 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.
Prosecutor Patrick Boyen described Clottemans as a “psychopathic killer.”
“She wanted an exclusive relationship with Somers and that was her motive,” he charged.
The jurors agreed, finding that Clottemans was the only person with the technical knowledge to disable the parachute and was the “only suspect left” after ruling out other potential suspects, judge Jordens said.