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World News

Belgian parachute murderer given 30-year jail term

TONGEREN, Belgium (Reuters) - A jealous Belgian teacher was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Thursday for the murder of a love rival who plunged to her death in a skydive after her parachute was sabotaged.

Belgian Els Clottemans leaves the court after her trial in the town of Tongeren October 21, 2010. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Els Clottemans, 26, was found guilty on Wednesday of cutting through key parts of the parachute system of 38-year-old Els Van Doren before the two jumped with their mutual lover, a Dutchman, and another man in November 2006.

The 30-year sentence means, under Belgian law, that Clottemans will serve a minimum of 10 years in jail.

Prosecutor Patrick Boyen had earlier called for a life sentence, saying there were no mitigating circumstances.

Defense lawyer Katrien Van der Straeten said Clottemans’ youth and clean criminal record should lessen the penalty, as well as the fact that she had lost her father at the age of two.

“Do not close the door fully, but give her a ray of hope,” she said.

Clottemans chose not to speak at the sentencing.

BOTH CHUTES FAILED

Van Doren, married with two children, smashed into a back garden from some 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) because both her main and reserve chutes failed to open in the jump, which was recorded by a camera on her helmet.

Prosecutors said Clottemans, an elementary school teacher, sabotaged the chutes the weekend before the jump, to remove her rival and to have Dutchman Marcel Somers for herself.

Interest in the case in Belgium has been so great that a live television feed was laid on in a larger room in the courthouse in Tongeren, a town in the east of the country. One TV broadcaster showed the verdict live.

Writing by Philip Blenkinsop

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