The Parachute murder is a
name the Belgian media gave the 2010 Belgian love triangle
skydiving murder trial. The defendant, elementary school teacher
and amateur skydiver Els 'Babs' Clottemans, was found guilty of
murder by sabotaging the parachute of another woman, fellow
skydiver Els Van Doren, because Van Doren was a rival for the love
of Marcel Somers, also a skydiver.
The skydive in which Van Doren died occurred on
November 18, 2006. Van Doren, who was a 38 years old married
mother of two and a very experienced skydiver, died when both her
primary and reserve parachutes failed to deploy.
The dive was captured by a video camera mounted
on Van Doren's helmet. Van Doren dropped from a height of over 2
miles (3.2 km) landing in a garden in the town of Opglabbeek.
Police later established that the cords of the parachute had been
The case was entirely circumstantial.
Clottemans became a suspect when she attempted suicide just before
she was going to give a second statement to police a month after
the incident. Police later learned that both Van Doren and
Clottemans had a sexual relationship with Somers.
The prosecutors alleged that Clottemans had the
opportunity to sabotage Van Doren's parachute the week before the
fatal jump, when Clottemans, Van Doren, and Somers all spent the
weekend at Somers' home, with Clottemans sleeping in the living
room while the other two were in the bedroom.
According to the allegation Clottemans would
have had the opportunity to cut Van Doren's parachute's cables, as
the parachute was in the apartment, and experts estimated that it
would have taken no more than 30 seconds to have cut the cables
with scissors. While normally the three would jump together to
create a formation, during the jump in question, Clottemans stayed
on the plane a few extra seconds and watched Van Doren's dive from
Investigators were not able to determine if Van
Doren knew that Somers also had a relationship with Clottemans.
For her part, Clottemans told the Belgian media in 2007 that
"[she] always knew that [she] was number two for Marcel and that
Els was number one. [She] never had a problem with this at the
time as [she] had such a low image of [her]self that [she] could
only ever imagine being number two."
Clottemans was charged and arrested in January
2007, but released on bail in 2008. Her trial began on September
24, 2010 with jury selection and ended on October 20, 2010 with a
conviction. Interest in the trial was so large, that "a room next
to the courthouse had to be used for journalists to follow the
proceedings through remote video."
After the trial began, Clottemans, who
maintained her innocence, was placed on suicide watch. On October
21, 2010 Clottemans was sentenced to a 30 years imprisonment. In
sentencing her to 30 years rather than life, the judge took "her
feeble psychological condition" as extenuating circumstances.
Clottemans appealed the verdict on the ground that she was
interrogated by police without the presence of her attorney. The
appeal was denied in May 2011.
Belgian parachute murderer
By Philip Blenkinsop -
May 3, 2011
(Reuters) - A Belgian teacher sentenced to 30
years for the murder of a skydiving love rival lost an appeal
against her conviction on Tuesday.
Els Clottemans was found guilty last October of
cutting through key parts of the parachute system of Els Van
Doren, 38, before the two jumped with their mutual lover in
Clottemans had appealed on the grounds that
investigators questioned her for more than 100 hours without a
Van Doren, married with two children, smashed
into a back garden from around 4,500 metres (15,000 feet) in the
air when her main and reserve chutes failed to open in the jump
recorded by a video camera on her helmet.
Els Clottemans, Belgian
Skydiver Who Doctored Parachute Of Love Rival, Gets 30 Years
By Robert Wielaard - HuffingtonPost.com
October 21, 2010
BRUSSELS — A jealous schoolteacher who doctored
the parachute of a love rival causing her to plunge to her death
was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday.
In sentencing Els Clottemans, 26, the judge
said the only mitigating circumstance in the 2006 skydive murder
was her feeble psychological condition. Clottemans attempted
suicide in 2008.
She was sentenced a day after she was found
guilty of murdering Els Van Doren by sabotaging her parachute so
neither it nor a safety chute would open during a Nov. 18, 2006,
A jury at a courthouse in the East Belgian town
of Tongeren agreed with the prosecution that jealousy motivated
She and Van Doren were members of the same
parachute club. The killer and her victim were intimately involved
with the same a man, a Dutch skydiver, whom Clottemans wanted for
The jury said Clottemans acted with
premeditation and that, as an accomplished jumper, she knew very
well how to disable a parachute. Evidence at the trial showed she
sent anonymous letters about Van Doren's love life to mutual
friends and that she was psychologically unstable. Clottemans
faced a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Her trial opened Sept. 24 with the accused
sitting nervously near the mud-caked parachute bag and helmet that
Van Doren wore on the day she died.
The jury saw video footage from a camera
mounted on her helmet, that Van Doren had shot during what would
be her last jump.
She and Clottemans were among the last four
jumpers to leave the Cessna plane.
The video showed how the victim looked up,
yanking at her gear, hoping to see an open canopy above her.
Neither parachute opened and she crashed into a
garden in the East Belgian town of Opglabbeek and died instantly.
Throughout her trial, Clottemans maintained her
The skydiver's fatal attraction
Belgian woman sentenced for sabotaging her
friend's parachute. The motive? Jealousy.
By Paul Ames - GlobalPost.com
October 21, 2010
BRUSSELS, Belgium — The skydiver’s horrific
final moments were captured by the video camera on her helmet.
Els Van Doren plunged screaming for more than
half a mile as she frantically struggled to open her sabotaged
On Wednesday, a jury found fellow skydiver Els
“Babs” Clottemans guilty of her friend’s murder, the crime
motivated by a deadly rivalry for the affections of the lover they
Clottemans, 26, had always denied the charge
that she’d caused the fatal fall in November 2006.
“I’m really innocent and can only keep on
repeating it” she pleaded in a final appeal to the jury. “For four
years I’ve been accused of something I didn’t do.”
However, the 12 members of the jury in the
eastern Belgian city of Tongeren took just four hours to find her
guilty of premeditated murder.
The primary school teacher's face was ashen as
the verdict was read. The victim’s tearful husband and teenage
children hugged. Today, Clottemans was sentenced to 30 years in
The victim, Els Van Doren, had led a double
During the week the 37-year-old mother of two
worked with her husband in the family jewelry store. Weekends she
spent at the Zwartburg parachute club to enjoy her passion for
skydiving and to meet her long-time lover, fellow club member
The three were friends, but unknown to Van
Doren, Somers had also begun an affair with Clottemans. A week
before the fatal jump, the three of them spent the night at
Somers’ home in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. Van Doren shared
Somers’ bed, while Clottemans was consigned to the sofa in the
The prosecution claimed that she was infuriated
by the couples’ lovemaking in the room next door, and took a pair
of scissors to cut the strings of her rival’s parachute, which was
stored in Somers’ apartment.
Somers and Clottemans both jumped with Van
Doren from a Cessna light aircraft flying two and a half miles
over the Belgian countryside on Nov. 18, 2006. Together with
another man they were supposed to link hands and free fall in a
star formation, but Clottemans jumped too late to join them. She
was able to look down on the other woman’s fatal fall.
At first all seems fine on the video, but when
the signal is given to open the parachutes, Van Doren’s fails to
open. An experienced skydiver with more than 2,300 jumps behind
her, she tries desperately to activate the reserve 'chute before
crashing to her death in a garden in the northeastern village of
Media interest in the case has been intense
over the four weeks of the trial and Belgian television networks
carried the reading of the verdict live.
Defense lawyers argued that there was no
forensic evidence linking their client to the killing. Clottemans
had pointed the finger at Somers or Van Doren’s husband, Jan De
Somers had told the court Van Doren was the
“love of his life” and he bitterly regretted becoming involved
with Clottemans. De Wilde said he’d learned about his wife’s
affair only after her death and therefore had no motive for the
The jury agreed with prosecutors that
circumstantial evidence linking Clottemans to the crime was
overwhelming. Her jealousy provided the motive and she had ample
opportunity to tamper with both the main- and reserve-parachutes
during the night at Somers’ apartment and the necessary expertise
to sabotage Van Doren’s kit without the damage being visible.
“Els Clottemans carries an unspeakable anger
within her,” Jef Vermassen, attorney for the victims’ family said
in his closing arguments. “It has led to the most horrible type of
attack: murder. She is totally intensive and feels no empathy.”
Murder at 13,000ft: The
dramatic final moments of skydiving victim captured by her OWN
September 26, 2010
This is the dramatic footage showing the final
moments of Els Van Doren, who was allegedly killed by a love rival
by sabotaging her parachute.
It was played to a Belgian court in the trial
of Els Clottemans who is accused of killing 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, Marcel
Somers, to herself.
The case has captured the imagination of
Belgians since Van Doren fell 13,000ft into a suburban garden in
eastern Belgium after her parachute did not open on November 18,
The pair are believed to have met the handsome
Dutchman at their parachute club in Zwartberg.
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 hurtling toward the
Van Doren plunged to her death a fortnight
after spending the night in her lover’s arms – while Clottemans
was forced to sleep on the couch.
On the night which is alleged to have led to
the murder, Van Doren was in Marcel's flat when her rival showed
up at the property.
Two weeks later, when Van Doren used it for the
first time since the allegedly fateful night with Somers, she
hurtled to the ground at a speed of 120mph and was killed
Her final moments were caught on film by her
own head-mounted camera.
The trio had been due to perform tricks
together in the sky, but Clottemans jumped a fraction too late and
did not join the manouevres.
Clottemans became a prime suspect when she
attempted suicide hours before she was due to make a second
statement to police, a month after the incident.
Detectives claimed in 2005 that Clottemans sent
anonymous letters to Van Doren's husband, bombarded Somers with
anonymous phone calls and once tried to kill herself.
In 2007, Clottemans told the Belgian media: ‘I
always knew that I was number two for Marcel and that Els was
number one. I never had a problem with this at the time as I had
such a low image of myself that I could only ever imagine being
No hard evidence has surfaced so far to support
the murder charge, but prosecutors hope circumstantial links will
secure the conviction.
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,' he added.
Prosecutors: Skydiving love
triangle led to murder
By Raf Casert - Associated Press
September 24, 2010
BRUSSELS—The two women shared the same first
name and were close friends. They both had a passion for
skydiving. And they both loved the same man.
Prosecutors say this love triangle led to
high-altitude murder when Els Clottemans sabotaged her friend's
parachute in a fit of jealousy as they skydived together, sending
her romantic rival plunging to her death in a horrifying fall
captured on video.
As her murder trial opened Friday, Clottemans
sat nervously in front of the mudcaked parachute bag and helmet
that Els Van Doren wore as she frantically tried to open the chute
before hitting the ground in November 2006 from a height of 13,000
feet (4,500 meters).
The video camera mounted on her helmet showed
how Van Doren desperately looked up, hoping to see an open canopy.
Seconds later, she crashed into the low shrubbery of a suburban
garden in eastern Belgium and was killed instantly.
Clottemans, a 26-year-old schoolteacher, has
vehemently denied the murder charge and accusations that she
killed her friend to claim for herself Dutch skydiver Marcel
Somers, whom both had slept with.
The 68-page indictment read out by Prosecutor
Patrick Boyen said there was enough evidence for the murder
"As skydiver, she had the knowledge and
opportunity to sabotage the parachute," the indictment said. It
alleged she made two key cuts to Van Doren's parachute.
"On top of that, she had a relationship with
Marcel ... who also had a relationship with the victim, giving the
accused a motive to have Marcel for her alone," the indictment
Chief defense lawyer Vic Van Aelst said
prosecutors have nothing but circumstantial allegations.
"I read no guilt and I see no guilt," Van Aelst
"We will not deny that Ms. Clottemans has had
some problems," he said. "But she certainly is not a psychopath."
A jury was selected Friday, and the trial in
the town of Tongeren is expected to last a month.
Clottemans became a prime suspect when she
attempted suicide hours before she was to make a second statement
to police a month after Van Doren's death.
At one time, the 38-year-old Van Doren was so
close to Clottemans at the skydiving club that she decided to have
everybody call her younger friend "Babs" so there would be no more
first name confusion.
On Nov. 18, 2006, Van Doren, an experienced
skydiver with 2,300 jumps to her name, leapt out of a Cessna with
Clottemans, Marcel and another skydiver to perform aerial
maneuvers during their fall.
Clottemans, however, said she jumped a fraction
too late to join the other three. When the sign was given to open
the parachutes, Van Doren struggled with hers and hurtled toward
the ground. The helmet-mounted camera recorded her desperate
attempt to release her reserve parachute.
"The first question a family normally asks is
whether the victim suffered, whether she knew what happened. We
don't have to ask. It was filmed. Try to deal with that as a
family," said Jef Vermassen, a lawyer for Van Doren's family.
A married mother of two, Van Doren spent most
weekends away from her family, skydiving and hanging out with
Somers at the skydiving club or his home. After the two became
lovers, Clottemans also became their friend and eventually also
slept with Somers.
A week before Van Doren's death, all three
stayed at Somers' home, with Clottemans sleeping in the living
room while the other two were in the bedroom. Prosecutors say that
during that weekend, Clottemans could have sabotaged the
It was not clear from the trial's first day if
Van Doren had known that Clottemans had slept with Somers.
Woman skydiver on trial for
murdering love rival
A woman skydiver has gone on trial accused of
murdering her love rival by tampering with her parachute and
causing her to plunge 13,000ft to her death
By Bruno Waterfield - Telegraph.co.uk
September 24, 2010
Els or "Babs" Clottemans, 25, is alleged to
have murdered her married skydiving partner Els Van Doran, 37, in
November 2006, after apparently growing jealous that they were
both having an affair with the same boyfriend, a fellow
Parachuting with both women, the lover, Marcel
or "Mars" Somers, 25, watched in horror as Mrs Van Doran, a mother
with two children, crashed over two miles to her death into a
garden in the Flemish Limburg town of Opglabbeek.
The three had taken off from the small
aerodrome of Zwartberg on a regular their Sunday skydiving trip.
Unlike other jumps, when the trio would hold join a star formation
before splitting up to open their chutes at 4,000ft, it is claimed
that Miss Clottemans hung back when leaving the aircraft.
She allegedly then watched from above as her
friend Mrs Van Doren, an experienced skydiver with 2,000 jumps,
struggled to open both her main and reserve parachutes. The fall
was captured on the victim's head-mounted video camera and footage
of the jump, showing her frantic efforts to open her main and
reserve parachutes provided key evidence for police.
Detectives found signs that both parachutes had
Miss Clottemans is said to have befriended Mr
Somers and Mrs Van Doren in 2004 and used to sleep on a mattress
in his living room while he shared the bedroom with the other
Then a second affair allegedly began between Mr
Somers and Els Clottemans, known as "Babs" to distinguish her from
Els Van Doren.
At the weekend of the death, both women had
apparently spent Friday night with Mr Somers. According to the
prosecution, Miss Clottemans, slept in the living room was close
to Mrs Van Doren's parachute, which was in the house's hall.
Their jump the next day was postponed from the
Saturday until Sunday because of bad weather and Mrs Van Doren
went home to her family. Miss Clottemans stayed with Mr Somers.
Belgian court psychiatrists have declared Miss
Clottemans to be "a danger to society" and to be a "psychopath
with dramatic features".
The accused, who was released from prison on
bail over two years ago, is said by family and friends to acted
"mature and calmly" since.
"My client has evolved since her release in
January 2008 and does not behave like a psychopath. She started
working as a teacher," said Vic Van Aelst, her lawyer.
Opening the trial, Mr Van Aelst insisted that
prosecutors "have nothing" to directly tie Miss Clottemans to the
"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," he said.
Miss Clottemans denies the charge.
Belgian skydiver 'murdered love rival'
September 24, 2010
Belgian court has begun trying a woman accused of murdering her
love rival by sabotaging her parachute on a sky dive four years
Els Clottemans is accused of murdering Els Van
Doren who fell 1,000m (3,200 ft) to her death while jumping with
her and the man they both loved.
Ms Van Doren held hands in formation with her
lover seconds before finding her parachute cords had been cut.
Ms Clottemans, 26, denies the charges laid
The elementary school teacher showed no sign of
emotion as prosecutor Patrick Boyen read the 68-page indictment in
the courtroom in the Flemish town of Tongeren (French: Tongres).
She only spoke to confirm basic details such as
her date of birth and profession while her lawyers issued a
statement expressing their firm belief that their client had not
killed a woman she regarded as a friend.
Els Van Doren, then 38, died on 18 November
2006, crashing into a garden in the village of Opglabbeek after
both of her parachutes failed to open.
Her horrific death fall was captured by her own
helmet video camera, which only stopped recording at the moment of
She had jumped over the Zwartberg area at
4,000m (13,000 ft) along with Marcel Somers and a second man. All
three were experienced parachutists.
The three took each other's hands for a
formation free fall they had rehearsed on the ground earlier along
with Ms Clottemans, Belgium's Le Soir newspaper reports.
But Ms Clottemans missed them, having jumped a
fraction too late.
The alleged murderer was reportedly able to
watch as her three fellow jumpers separated at 1,000m to open
their parachutes, with Ms Van Doren trying in vain to activate
"Els tried to do everything to try to save
herself," Luc Deijgers, who piloted the Cessna plane, told Belgian
"She tried to open the reserve parachute but it
wouldn't open. That never happens."
After establishing that the victim's cords had
been cut, police arrested Ms Clottemans in January 2007.
Investigators piecing together the events
leading up to the death believe Ms Clottemans wrote an anonymous
letter and made anonymous phone calls to Ms Van Doren.
Laying out details of the love triangle, Mr
Boyen said for the prosecution that Mr Somers had entertained Ms
Van Doren, a married mother of two, most Saturdays while often
seeing Ms Clottemans on Fridays.
According to Mr Somers, quoted in the UK's
Independent newspaper, he had been trying to "shake off" Ms
A week before the fatal jump, the two women
spent the night in his flat, Ms Van Doren sharing his bed while Ms
Clottemans slept on a mattress or sofa.
Ms Clottemans would have had the opportunity of
sabotaging the other woman's parachutes, which were in the flat at
the time, investigators say.
Experts said it would have taken just 30
seconds to do so with scissors.
More than 200 witnesses are expected to be
called to the trial, due to last four weeks.
A verdict is expected on 20 October.