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Belgian, 89, found guilty of murdering her best friend, 93

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Clara Maes, 89, is helped to her seat in the courtroom where she was found guilty of murder
Clara Maes, 89, is helped to her seat in the courtroom where she was found guilty of murder   -   Copyright  JOHN THYS / BELGA / AFP
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An 89-year-old woman has been found guilty of murdering her best friend, more than five years after the crime was committed.

Clara Maes, a Belgian woman who was 84 at the time of the 2015 murder, denied killing 93-year-old Suzanne Thibeau, who had named Maes as heir to the majority of her fortune.

The murder in Arlon, a French-speaking part of southern Belgium, attracted attention due to the advanced ages of the accused and the victim.

Thibeau, a childless widow, had written Maes into her will, with 70% of her estate heading her way, with the other 30% going to a cousin.

Maes had already been gifted nearly €300,000 by her friend, according to a deed from September 2014.

Strained relations

The body of Thibeau was found in a pool of blood at her home in Libramont in the early afternoon by a couple of friends on 3 January 2015.

Maes became the number one suspect in the murder after investigations showed Maes had visited Thibeau that morning, a normal routine where she would bring her bread or wash her dishes, according to the Belga press agency.

Investigators saw there was no sign of a break-in at Thibeau’s home, and there were inconsistencies in her story, including a change of clothes during the day of the murder.

Traces of the victim's DNA were also found in Maes' vehicle, which the investigation revealed had probably been stained with her blood.

At the hearing witnesses explained that relations had deteriorated between the two friends because of Clara's strong character and her repeated intrusions into Suzanne's life.

"Suzanne surely told Clara that she was going to change the will," said Marc Kauten, one of the prosecuting lawyers.

A jury returned a guilty verdict on Friday morning, and will now need to decide on the length of the sentence, which is likely to be at least 10 years under Belgian law.