A 26-year-old Belgian woman was just sentenced to 30 years in prison for sabotaging her rival’s parachute while skydiving. The woman fell 13,000 feet to her death in a Flemish garden. Schoolteacher Els “Babs” Clottemans apparently disabled 37-year-old Els Van Doran’s main and reserve ‘chutes because she was jealous of her involvement with their mutual Dutch skydiving man friend, 25-year-old Marcel Somers. The three often went skydiving together, making star formations in the sky before opening their chutes at 4,000 feet. Babs used to sleep on a mattress in Somers’ living room while he shared a room with Doran, but at some point, he had a second affair with the murderer. The trial took place four years after the murder, following which, Clottemans had been working as a schoolteacher. Though her family said she was acting perfectly calm, court psychiatrists called her a “psychopath with dramatic features.” Evidence of tampering with the parachutes and a video taken from the victim’s head-mounted video camera provided enough evidence to put Babs away. [Newser, Telegraph]
This is the kind of story Lifetime waits a lifetime to make a movie about, only it’s real and absolutely terrifying. Sometimes I forget that real people are capable of such immense cruelty. Even if someone went after a guy I believed to be my soulmate, I would never so much as egg her house. I think the trick is that mentally unstable people don’t have the capacity to see that murdering someone’s girlfriend will pretty much never lead the ailing boyfriend into your arms. Even if it weren’t immediately obvious that you’ve tampered with her parachutes and led to what must have been one of the most heinous of deaths ever, if the guy were in love with you, he would be with you. Love triangles happen all the time, but they usually don’t end with someone plummeting to their death. It’s an even creepier situation because it sounded like the three of them had a sweet friendship, making sky formations and having sleepover weekend trips, but meanwhile Babs must have had a totally different experience of what was going on.
It also worries me that someone accused of murder in 2006 can be released two years later and get a job as a schoolteacher before her trial. Do accusations of murder not go on one’s record, even if you’re up for trial? I’m not sure if the regulations are that different in Belgium, but you’d think there would be a little more effort to keep potential murderers away from screaming children. She also had over two years of freedom after killing someone — what kind of evidence could have possibly come up that wasn’t there four years ago? Why does it take so long to convict someone they’d already decided in court was a psychopath?
I guess there’s an important lesson here: Don’t trust anyone near your parachute. Actually, maybe don’t go skydiving at all. And if your friend has a crush on your man, it’s probably best to avoid extreme sports in general. And if you’re looking for a good boarding school for your kids, Belgium might be a bit lax. Also, call your mother. She worries.