Skydiver's death was an act of sabotage, say police

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The Independent Online

A Belgian skydiver has been detained by police, suspected of sabotaging a friend's parachute and watching her fall 13,000ft to her death after discovering the woman was having an affair with her boyfriend.

The alleged crime of passion took place last November when Els Van Doren, 37, died after her parachute and emergency chute failed to open during a jump.

Police have recovered video footage of the jump taken by Ms Van Doren on a head-mounted camera showing how she struggled in vain to open her parachute. Police believe someone tampered with her skydiving equipment and have opened a formal murder investigation.

Michel Zegers from the Tongeren prosecutor's office named Els Clottemans, a fellow skydiver, as the prime suspect. Ms Clottemans, 22, was detained for questioning last week, though no charges have yet been filed.

Investigators believe Ms Clottemans and Ms Van Doren, who belonged to the same parachute club and were friends, had a relationship with the same man, a Dutch national identified only as Marcel.

Newspapers have suggested that Ms Clottemans murdered Ms Van Doren , who is married with two children, in an extreme act of revenge after learning about her love rival's affair with her boyfriend.

A court will assess the evidence next month but Mr Zegers said: "I believe we can call this a crime of passion." Ms Van Doren had jumped from a plane with three other people, including Ms Clottemans and the Dutch boyfriend. The plan was to make a freefall formation, something that had gone well on previous jumps.

But when her parachutes failed to work, Ms Van Doren plunged to her death at 130mph, landing near Opglabbeek, a small town in central Belgium. Police subsequently said that the victim's parachute could only have been tampered with by someone with extensive skydiving expertise.

Ms Clottemans initially escaped attention during a first round of police questioning because of her friendship with the victim. But she became a suspect in December when she attempted suicide hours before she was to make a second statement to police. Ms Clottemans is said to have a history of psychological problems.

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