World

Skydiving murder trial begins in Belgium

A Belgian skydiver accused of allegedly killing her lover's paramour by sabotaging her parachute went on trial Friday.

A Belgian skydiver accused of allegedly killing her lover's paramour by sabotaging her parachute went on trial Friday.

The prosecutors said jealousy drove Els Clottemans to kill Els Van Doren four years ago, with whom she shared a passion for skydiving and a lover.

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

The case has captured the imagination of this nation since Van Doren fell from 4,500 metres into low shrubbery of a suburban garden in eastern Belgium after her parachute did not open on Nov. 18, 2006.

A married mother of two and skydiving enthusiast, Van Doren had jumped from a plane together with Clottemans, their Dutch lover and another skydiver intent to perform tricks in the sky.

Clottemans, however, jumped a fraction too late and did not join the manoeuvres with the other three. When the sign was given to open the parachutes, Van Doren struggled with the cords, before hurtling 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 the 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," Vic Van Aelst said.

The trial opened Friday 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.