Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Child molester - Kidnapping - Torture
Number of victims: 5 +
Date of murders: 1995 - 1996
Date of arrest: August 13, 1996
Date of birth: November 6, 1956
Victims profile: Julie Lejeune, 8, and Mélissa Russo, 8 / An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambrecks, 19 / Bernard Weinstein, 44 (former accomplice)
Method of murder: Starvation - Buried alive - ???
Location: Hainaut, Belgium
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on June 22, 2004
Marc Dutroux (born 6 November 1956 in Brussels) is a Belgian serial killer and child molester, convicted of having kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused six girls during 1995 and 1996, ranging in age from 8 to 19, four of whom he murdered. He was also convicted of having killed a suspected former accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, later proved insane.
He was arrested in 1996 and has been in prison since then. His widely publicised trial took place in 2004. A number of shortcomings in the Dutroux investigation caused widespread discontent in Belgium with the country's criminal justice system, and the ensuing scandal was one of the reasons for the reorganisation of Belgium's law enforcement agencies.
Before the kidnappings
Dutroux was the eldest of five children; his parents, both teachers, emigrated to the Belgian Congo and returned to Belgium in 1960. They separated in 1971 and Dutroux stayed with his mother but left at age 16, working briefly as a prostitute serving men. He married his first wife at the age of 19; they had two children. He divorced her in 1983.
At this point, he already had an affair with Michelle Martin. The two would eventually have three children together; they married in 1989 while both were in prison. They divorced in 2003, again while in prison.
An unemployed electrician, Dutroux had a long criminal history involving car theft, muggings and drug dealing; his is the classic life story of a sociopath.
In February 1986, Dutroux and Martin were arrested for abducting and raping five young girls. In April 1989 he was sentenced to thirteen and a half years in prison; Martin received a sentence of five years. Showing good behaviour in prison, he was released on parole in April 1992, after having served slightly more than three years. Upon releasing Dutroux, the parole board received a warning letter written by his own mother to the prison director.
After his release, he was able to convince a psychiatrist that he was disabled, resulting in a government pension. He also received sleeping pills and sedatives from the doctor, which he would later use to quiet the abducted girls.
He came to own seven houses, most of them vacant, and he used three of them to torture the girls he kidnapped. In his house in Marcinelle near Charleroi (Hainaut), where he lived most of the time, he started to construct a concealed dungeon in the basement. Hidden behind a massive concrete door disguised as a shelf, the cell was 2.15 metres (7 feet) long, less than a meter (3 feet) wide and 1.64 metres (5.38 feet) high.
Abductions and arrest
Some of the following describes the events as alleged by the prosecution.
Julie Lejeune (age 8) and Mélissa Russo (age 8) were kidnapped together on June 24, 1995, probably by Dutroux, and imprisoned in Dutroux's cellar. Dutroux repeatedly sexually abused the girls and produced pornographic videos.
17-year-old An Marchal and 19-year-old Eefje Lambrecks were kidnapped on August 22, 1995 while on a camping trip in Ostend, probably by Dutroux and his drug-addicted accomplice Michel Lelièvre, who was being paid with drugs. Since the dungeon was already in use, Dutroux chained the girls to a bed in a room of his house. His wife was aware of all these activities. The prosecution alleged that Dutroux killed An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks several weeks later, but the exact circumstances of the murder are unknown.
In late 1995, Dutroux came under investigation for his involvement in stolen luxury cars. He was in custody from December 6, 1995 until March 20, 1996. It is likely that Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo starved to death during this time.
Sabine Dardenne was kidnapped and imprisoned in the dungeon on May 28, 1996 on her way to school, probably by Dutroux and his accomplice Michel Lelièvre. She was 12 at the time. On August 9, 1996, the two men kidnapped Laetitia Delhez (14) when she was walking home at night from a public swimming pool. A police investigation found an eye witness who could remember part of a license plate which matched Dutroux's.
Dutroux, his wife Martin and Lelièvre were arrested on August 13, 1996. A search of his houses did not turn up anything. After two days, both Dutroux and Lelièvre confessed. Then Dutroux led investigators to the dungeon hidden in his basement. Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez were found alive there on August 15.
In an interview conducted several years later, Ms. Dardenne related that Dutroux told her that she was being kidnapped by a gang, that her parents did not want to pay, and that the gang therefore was planning to kill her. He presented himself as the "good guy" protecting her from the gang. He let her write letters to her family, which he read but never posted.
On August 17, Dutroux led police to another house of his, in Sars-la-Buissière (Hainaut). The bodies of Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo as well as Dutroux's supposed accomplice Bernard Weinstein were found in the garden. An autopsy found that the two girls died from starvation. Dutroux had crushed Weinstein's testicles until he revealed a money hiding place, then he drugged him and buried him alive. Dutroux told police that he had killed Weinstein because he had failed to feed the girls during Dutroux's time in custody. Finally, Dutroux told police where to find the bodies of An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks. They were located on September 3, 1996 in Jumet (Hainaut), buried under a shack next to a house owned by Dutroux. Weinstein had lived in that house for three years.
Several hundred pornographic videos with underage victims were found in Dutroux's houses.
Shortcomings of the investigation, public outcry
Authorities were criticised for various aspects of the case. Perhaps most notably, police searched Dutroux's house on December 13, 1995 and again on December 19, 1995 in relation to his car theft charge. During this time, Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo were still alive in the basement dungeon, but they were not found. Since the search was unrelated to kidnapping charges, police searching the house had no dogs or specialised equipment that may have discovered the girls' presence. However, one officer heard children crying.
Several early hints as to Dutroux's intentions were not properly followed-up. Dutroux had offered money to a police informer for providing girls, and told him that he was constructing a cell in his basement. His mother also wrote a second letter to police, claiming that he held girls captive in his houses.
There was widespread anger and frustration among Belgians due to police errors and the general slowness of the investigation. This anger culminated when the popular investigative judge in charge of the case was dismissed after having participated in a fund raising dinner by the girls' parents. His dismissal resulted in a massive protest march (the "White March") of 300,000 people on the capital, Brussels, in October 1996, in which demands were made for reforms of Belgium's police and justice system.
A 17-month investigation by a parliamentary commission into the Dutroux affair produced a report in February 1998. The commission found that while Dutroux did not have accomplices in high positions of police and justice system, as he continued to claim, he profited from corruption, sloppiness and incompetence.
Public indignation flared up again in April 1998. While being transferred to a court house without handcuffs, Dutroux managed to overpower one of his guards, take his gun and escape. He was caught a few hours later. The Minister of Justice, the Minister of the Interior, and the police chief resigned as a result. In 2000, Dutroux received a five-year sentence for threatening a police officer during his escape. In 2002, he received another five-year sentence for unrelated crimes.
There was speculation that Dutroux was part of a widespread network of pedophiles and Satanists, supposedly including prominent Belgians. This charge was in particular made by the parents of the abducted girls, as well as by Dutroux himself. Some sources, including Belgian police, have questioned the accuracy of such claims. Unhappy with the conduct of the investigation, the parents of Mélissa Russo and Julie Lejeune pulled out of the trial in 2002. In 2003, nineteen year-old Sabine Dardenne gave her first interview to the press. She stated that, based on her observations during her 79-day-long captivity, she thought that Dutroux acted alone.
The Dutroux case is now considered so evil and infamous that more than a third of Belgians with the surname "Dutroux" applied to have their name changed between 1996 and the trial.
Dutroux's trial began on March 1, 2004, some seven and a half years after his initial arrest. It was a trial by jury and up to 450 people were called upon to testify. The trial took place in Arlon, the capital of the Belgian province of Luxembourg, where investigations had started.
Dutroux was tried for the murder of An Marchal, Eefje Lambrecks and Bernard Weinstein, a suspected accomplice. While admitting the abductions, he denied all three killings, although he had earlier confessed to the killing of Weinstein. Dutroux was also charged with a host of other crimes: auto theft, abduction, attempted murder and attempted abduction, molestation, and three unrelated rapes of women from Slovakia.
Dutroux faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Belgium abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 1996.
Martin was tried as an accomplice, as were Michel Lelièvre and Michel Nihoul. To protect the accused, they were made to sit in a glass cage during the trial. In the first week of the trial, photos of Dutroux's face were not allowed to be printed in Belgian newspapers, for privacy reasons. Throughout the trial, Dutroux continued to insist that he was part of a Europe-wide pedophile ring with accomplices amongst police officers, businessmen, doctors, and even high-level Belgian politicians.
In a rare move, the jury at the assize trial publicly protested the presiding judge Stéphane Goux's handling of the debates and perceived rushing of the victims' testimonies.
On June 14, 2004, after three months of trial, the jury went into seclusion to reach their verdicts on Dutroux and the three other accused, which were returned on June 17 after three days of deliberation. Dutroux, Martin and Lelièvre were found guilty on all charges, while the jury couldn't reach a verdict on Nihoul's role.
Nihoul was later acquitted from the charge of being an offender on kidnapping and murder of the girls by the court. The jury was asked to go back into seclusion to give answer to the question whether Nihoul was an accomplice or not.
On June 22 Dutroux received the maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while Martin received 30 years and Lelievre 25 years. Although Nihoul was acquitted of kidnapping and conspiracy charges, he was convicted on drug related charges and received 5 years.
Houses of Dutroux
Marc Dutroux owned seven houses, but four have been used by Dutroux for his kidnappings:
The house on the Avenue Philippeville 128 in Marcinelle is most often cited in the media. All girls were held captive here in the basement and bedroom.
The municipality of Charleroi seized ownership of this house, because of what happened here and the bad state of the house. There are plans to create an open space with a memorial site here. In the Belgian procedure of compulsory purchase, an owner has a last right to visit a house. Therefore, Dutroux visited this house on 10 September 2009, under heavy police guard.
A house in Jumet, that has since been demolished. An and Eefje were buried in the garden of this house by Dutroux. Weinstein lived in this house for a while. A small monument is placed at this location.
A house in Marchienne-au-Pont. Julie and Mélissa were held captive here for a short while after their kidnapping.
A house in Sars-la-Buissière. Julie, Mélissa and Bernard Weinstein were buried here after Dutroux killed them. The house was bought by the municipality of Lobbes in the first months of 2009. It is planned to make a park with a monument commemorating the victims of Dutroux here.
In June 1995, two 8-year-old girls, Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune were kidnapped while they played near their homes in Charleroi, Belgium. They were the latest victims of a sexual psychopath who, because of unexcusable police mishandling of the case, would go on to murder at least four women and girls, including Melissa and Julie.
The young girls were taken to the home of Marc Dutroux, a convicted sex offender who had previously served a 12-year sentence for sexually assaulting another child. Prior to his release from prison, the warden had described him as an incorrigible psychopath.
In the course of their investigation Belgian police, hampered by infighting between the Flemish-speaking and French-speaking authorities, were told by an informer tha Dutroux had been digging in his basement, creating a dungeon where he was planning to warehouse his victims before, according to the police source, he sold them abroad. No formal report of the tip was ever made.
Incredibly, the gendarmerie searched Dutroux’s home and failed find the girls imprisoned in the basement. They also failed to investigate the cries of the girls that they heard, accepting Dutroux’s claim that the noise was coming from children playing in the street.
Despite finding handcuffs, chloroform, vaginal cream and a speculum (an instrument used in gynecological exams), the police did not detain Dutroux and left his home.
Two months after the children disappeared, Dutroux kidnapped 19-year-old An Marchal and 17-year-old Eefje Lambrecks while they were hitchhiking near Ostend, in Dutch-speaking Flanders. They were forced to swallow a sedative and raped. Their emaciated bodies, their mouths gagged, were later discovered at another of Dutroux’s properties.
In the late fall of 1995, Dutroux was arrested and jailed for an unrelated crime.
Back at his home, in their basement prison, Melisaa and Julie drew on the dank walls as they starved to death in cages, while he was serving a prison sentence for theft.
Dutroux’s wife at the time, Michelle Martin, a mother of three, allegedly fed her husband’s German shepherd dogs but not the girls, who were later buried in bin bags in the back garden. Martin fed the dogs guarding the dungeon but claimed that she was too frightened to go into the secret cellar in the Charleroi slums, fearing that the “little beasts” would attack her.
A similar scenario would play out a year later when 12-year-old Sabine Dardenne was kidnapped while bicycling to school and imprisoned in the dungeon. She would spend 79 days chained to a bed. Dutroux told Dardenne her parents were refusing to pay a ransom to free her. In August 1996, 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez joined her in the dungeon.
The two terrified girls, believing Dutroux’s story that he was protecting them from someone called the “bad boss”, were rescued from a concealed underground cell in his “house of horrors” at Marcinelle, near Charleroi, two days before his arrest in August 1996.
Furious Belgians, enraged at the bungling of the case, protested in what became known known as the Marche Blanche in 1996, when 350,000 people took to the streets of Brussels.
In 1998, still awaiting trial Dutroux escaped briefly, and in 2003, the public learned that he had been allowed to correspond with a 15-year-old girl for two years.
Finally, in 2004, after a continuing series of goofs that almost resulted in freedom for Dutroux, he was brought to trial.
Dubbed the “perfect psychopath” by one expert witness, he seemed to lack any of the normal guilt reflexes.
“He is intelligent, secretive, without scruple, with an extraordinary power of manipulation,” concluded a team of psychologists. Dutroux dismissed them all as “utter mediocrities”.
Dutroux did not deny abducting Sabine or locking her away for 80 days in a cell - naked and chained by the neck - on a diet of water and tinned food, or raping her repeatedly. But he denied wrong-doing.
“I am not a paedophile, even if it is true that I slipped up with Sabine at a time when I was lonely and needed affection,” he said.
In a three-hour address to the court prior to his sentencing, Dutroux continued to blame others for his crimes. “I am the scapegoat for the resentments of a sick society that lost its moorings,” he said.
He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
MARC DUTROUX, A PEDOPHILE AND CHILD-KILLER
By Rachael Bell
See No Evil, Hear No Evil...
Throughout history, the people of the largest city in the Wallonian province of Belgium, known as Charleroi, had been forced to engage in countless struggles against French domination in order to preserve their way of life.
Recently, the people of Charleroi and its surrounding towns have been faced with a new enemy. Marc Dutroux, a convicted pedophile, murderer and supposed leader of an international child pornography and prostitution ring, terrorized the city with his shocking crimes, between the mid 1980's and late 1990's.
The Dutroux case gained worldwide attention, not only because of the horrific nature of his crimes, but also the gross negligence and amateurism of police and government officials involved in the investigation.
The Dutroux case caused such upset amongst Belgium's citizens, that it prompted one of the largest peacetime demonstrations since World War II and a shake-up of the Belgian government, causing the resignation and dismissal of several government officials.
The father of three children and working on his second marriage, Dutroux had little difficulty providing financially for his family. Although Dutroux was an unemployed electrician earning welfare from the state, he managed financially by trading stolen cars in Poland and Slovakia, and selling young girls into prostitution throughout Europe. Dutroux owned seven houses in Belgium, most of which stood vacant, except for those houses in which he kept the girls he kidnapped, to be later sold into prostitution or for use in pornography videos.
Dutroux was convicted earlier in 1989 for the rape and abuse of five young girls. During the time Dutroux was serving his sentence, Justice Minister Wathelet allowed the early release of many of Belgium's sex offenders.
Although he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, Dutroux served only three years before being released for good behavior in 1992. It would be another four years before the Belgian Cabinet would finally approve of tightening the laws again, making it more difficult for sex offenders to be released from prison.
Shortly after Dutroux's release from jail, young girls began to disappear around some of the neighborhoods where Dutroux owned houses. Police, during two different occasions, searched the Charleroi house owned by Dutroux. However, the police failed to search the house thoroughly. Hidden in a secret dungeon in the basement were two teenage girls hoping to be found.
CNN reported some years later that during the time of the investigation into the missing girls, vital facts concerning the disappearances were kept from other police investigators. Moreover, during a high point in the investigation, a magistrate working on the case had forgotten to tell her replacement that children were even missing.
Other instances of police incompetence occurred between 1993 and 1996. Police ignored a tip from a Dutroux informant in 1993, in which he stated that Dutroux offered him between $3,000 and $5,000 to kidnap young girls.
In 1995, Dutroux's own mother wrote to prosecutors reporting that she had knowledge that her son had been keeping young girls in one of his unoccupied houses. The same man who tipped off police to Dutroux's offer of money to kidnap young girls, later told police in 1995 that he had learned that Dutroux was building a dungeon to keep girls in that he would later sell into prostitution.
Again, these vital clues into the disappearances of the missing girls were ignored. It would be another year before police would finally pay attention to what the informants had been telling them all along. During that valuable time, in which nothing was done to further investigate the leads on Dutroux, other girls disappeared.
There was finally a break in the case of the missing girls in August, 1996. While conducting a neighborhood search near the area where police thought that one of the girls had been kidnapped, they came across a person who remembered a suspicious vehicle close to the individual's house. The eyewitness was able to recall some of the numbers on the vehicle's license plate, which eventually led the police to Marc Dutroux.
On August 15, 1996 police raided Dutroux's house where they discovered a soundproof concrete dungeon in the basement. The dungeon was the one of which an eyewitness had told them about the previous year. Within the dungeon they discovered two young girls, who were alive but had been sexually abused.
The two girls were Laetitia Delhez, aged 14, and Sabine Dardenne, aged 12. Both girls had admitted to being sexually assaulted and filmed pornographically by Dutroux. Police found further evidence including at least 300 child pornography videos.
The youngest girl, Delhez, had been kidnapped on August 9, 1996, after being grabbed off the street, thrown into Dutroux's car and drugged. The older of the two, Dardenne, had been kept in the same dungeon as Delhez. However, Dardenne had suffered sexual abuse by Dutroux for a total of two and a half months.
A few days after the discovery of Dardenne and Delhez, police exhumed the bodies of two girls who were not as fortunate to survive in Dutroux's deadly dungeon. Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, two eight-year-old friends who disappeared together in June 1995, were found buried in Dutroux's backyard at another of his houses, in Sars-La-Bouissiere.
Dutroux had told police that the two girls had starved to death between February and March, during the time he was imprisoned for car theft. Dutroux insisted that it was a former accomplice of his named Bernard Weinstein who was at fault for the girls' deaths, stating that he failed to feed them while he was imprisoned.
He also said it was Weinstein who kidnapped the children, supposedly for a commission from Dutroux. Angered that Weinstein allowed the two little girls to die, he admitted to giving him barbiturates and burying him alive next to Russo and Lejeune. Weinstein's body was found alongside the two girls.
Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune were buried shortly after their discovery, in white coffins side by side, during a private ceremony. Thousands paid their respects to the two friends who lived and died together.
While in police custody, Dutroux and accomplice Michel Lelievre had allegedly admitted kidnapping two other girls who had gone missing a year earlier from a camping trip at Ostend, a Belgian resort.
The two girls, An Marchal, aged 19, and Eefje Lambreks, aged 17, were found at another house owned by Dutroux, several weeks after the discovery of Russo and Lejeune. The two girls had been buried under concrete in a shed next to Dutroux's house. Police also discovered Dutroux's former accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, had occupied the house for three years.
Others who were detained or arrested in connection with the Dutroux murders and child-sex ring included, Dutroux's second wife Michelle Martin and Jean-Michel Nihoul, a businessman who confessed to organizing an orgy at a Belgium chateau, which several government officials, police officers, and a former European Commissioner attended. Michel Lelievre, an accomplice in the kidnapping of An Marchal and Eefje Lambreks, was also arrested.
In September, 1996, nine police officers in Charleroi were detained for questioning regarding their involvement and possible negligence in the Dutroux investigation. Also during that month, Marleen De Cockere was arrested on criminal charges of conspiracy in connection with Dutroux's crime ring. De Cockere was described by police as the love interest of Jean Nihoul. Seven other people were later arrested in connection to the child-sex ring.
There was no doubt that had Dutroux not been released early and had police acted on tips from informants about his activities, four girls would be alive today and other young girls might have been saved from being sold into prostitution or child pornography.
This realization caused a massive outcry from the Belgian public, demanding an inquiry into the handling of the Dutroux investigation, a change in laws and radical changes to the political and judicial system.
Public outrage sparked a call for Belgium to reinstate the death penalty that had been discontinued several months before the discovery of Dutroux's first victims. The public further demanded a tightening of the parole criteria for those convicted of child sex offenses. This was finally implemented in 1998.
The Dutroux case was the main subject of an international conference in Stockholm, which was organized by the United Nations' Children's Fund on August 28, 1996. Foreign Minister Erik Derycke emotionally called on all nations to combat the exploitation of children by "enhancing mutual law enforcement and judicial cooperation," as quoted in Belgium Today.
It was stressed that it was necessary for all agencies to work together and fight against child abuse on all levels. It was announced at the conference that measures would be taken to ensure this, by calling on EU Member States to combine forces among the countries by ratifying EUROPOL and prioritizing cases related to those involving children.
Belgian citizens had finally had enough by mid-October, 1996. Belgians were furious not only with the mismanagement of the investigation into the missing girls, but were even more outraged when the investigative judge in the Dutroux case, Jean-Marc Connerotte, was dismissed. Many Belgians viewed Connerotte as a hero because he secured the arrest of Marc Dutroux and collected significant evidence against him that would help convict Dutroux and those in his pedophile ring.
Belgium's Supreme Court removed Connerotte because he attended a fund raising dinner, which was organized to help in the search for missing children. It was later decided that his attendance at the fund raising event caused him to lose his objectivity when investigating the Dutroux case.
It was the dismissal of Connerotte and the incompetence of the police that prompted one of the largest peacetime marches in Belgium's history since World War II. In late October, more than 300,000 people dressed in white, a symbol of innocence, marched throughout the city of Brussels demanding serious reforms within the political and judicial system.
Belgians were further angered at the possibility of there being a government cover-up. Confidence in the Belgian government was at a low point. Throughout Belgium, there were many who walked away from their work for the day in protest over the recent events.
A car assembly plant was left vacant when its workers walked away in anger; some cities came to a stand still when train operators refused to work; and the families of the victims called for a general strike. It was time for the government to take action and make some of the necessary changes that were suggested in order to restore public order and confidence.
Belgium's Prime Minister Dehaene was quoted as saying, "This is a strong signal which we cannot ignore." He further stated that the movement was good because it would speed up reforms. Prime Minister Dehaene promised not only would he see to it that there would be reforms in the justice system, but he would also see the Dutroux investigation pursued to the end. Even Belgium's King Albert spoke up about the Dutroux case and called for reforms.
During April of 1997, a parliamentary committee investigating the handling of the Dutroux case said that the young girls who were murdered might have been alive today, if the police had not made so many mistakes during the investigation into the pedophile ring.
The committee further recommended that Brussels prosecutor Benoit Dejemeppe be dismissed because he failed to do his job properly. Other officials were found responsible for the deaths of the girls.
Investigators were charged with ignoring warnings by informants during a crucial stage during the investigation, mistreating the parents of the victims and failing to pass on vital information between prosecutors and police. Moreover, the report called for, "an overhaul of Belgium's police, replacing the current three services -- the local police, judicial police and the national gendarmerie - with one local and one national service." Further details concerning the hearings, including suggested government reforms, were listed in a report of over 300 pages, which was handed out to party leaders.
The police department suffered further humiliation when in April, 1998 Marc Dutroux overpowered a police officer that was guarding him, and escaped for three hours. The prison, incredibly enough, had allowed Dutroux to leave the building to consult files that would be used in his upcoming trial. While on one of his leaves, he struggled with a guard, stealing his gun in the process and finally taking off in a stolen car.
Dutroux was eventually captured and he was no longer permitted to prepare for his trial outside of the prison. Dutroux's escape prompted the resignation of three officials, Belgium's State Police Chief, Lt. Gen. Willy Deridder, and the justice and interior ministers. It would be another month before the government and opposition parties would finally agree to the restructuring of the police and justice system.
Dutroux and his accomplices were scheduled for trial in 2000 for deaths of the four girls and the pedophile ring operation.
On and On and On
On March 20, 2000, BBC Online reported that Mark Dutroux, clad in handcuffs, a bullet-proof vest and escorted by 10 police officers, was transported to a courtroom in the Belgian town of Neufchateau on charges relating to his brief escape from custody two years ago.
His appearance lasted for an hour with Dutroux admitting that he had escaped but claimed that he had only done so to tell the media his version of the story. Judges and lawyers on the case decided to put back the trial until May, 2000.
Since Dutroux's escape, two government ministers have resigned and a prosecutor in charge of the case has committed suicide. Dutroux may face up to10 years in prison if convicted of theft and assault during his escape.
Two months later, on June 19, 2000, Marc Dutroux was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of theft and assault in connection with his escape from custody, which is not a crime under Belgian law. BBC Online also reported that the families of Dutroux's young victims continue to wait as the investigations into the murders drag on.
A further BBC report the following August detailed how Belgium authorities were taking steps to prevent the circulation of a list of convicted or suspected pedophiles living in Belgium after a small French-language magazine in Luxembourg called The Investigator decided to print a list of fifty names. Although a Belgian court issued an emergency injunction against the paper, copies of the magazine containing the list had already been posted to subscribers in Belgium.
Editor of The Investigator, Jean Nicolas, claimed the decision was intended to warn the public and that no photos of the alleged pedophiles or their victims had been published. He told the Belga news agency that the list had been obtained from the files of Jacques Langlois, the investigating magistrate in the Dutroux case. However, a Belgian court termed the decision an abuse of human rights and passed an injunction indicating that Nicolas would face a fine of $20,000 for each copy that contained the list.
In February 2001 BBC reported that Marc Dutroux had appeared in court in southern Belgium alleging that the Belgian State is violating his human rights. He is demanding that he be released from solitary confinement, undergo fewer body searches, and be allowed to sleep uninterrupted.
Dutroux's lawyer has requested that a fine be imposed on the state if it failed to improve the conditions in which it holds him and that the judge inspect Dutroux's specially constructed cell.
The state claims that Dutroux is given special attention for his own protection. Thousands of spectators surrounded the court to express their grief and disillusionment with Belgian authorities' failure to save the girls he is accused of viciously raping and murdering.
The trial is postponed again and again which enrages the victims' families and ignites anger and disgust among the Belgian people.
On January 22 2002, CNN Online reported that an "unauthorized televised interview" with Marc Dutroux during which Dutroux allegedly admitted he was guilty of locking up two young girls who starved to death in his cellar. The "confession," released by a television journalist, was captured on a tape recorder that was smuggled into Dutroux's cell by a Belgian senator.
On the tape, Dutroux allegedly says: "I kept Julie and Melissa captive at my place, so I'm not innocent. I kept An and Eefje (teenagers An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks) captive at my place, so I'm not innocent. I'm absolutely guilty."
The taped "confession," is a dramatic departure for Dutroux as he has consistently professed his innocence of the 1996 murder charges despite having served 13 years in prison on a previous charge of raping five girls.
On hearing the interview, Paul Marchal, the father of alleged Dutroux victim An Marchal, told Reuters: "I didn't want to hear it anymore. I can't listen to his voice. It makes me so sick."
The father of victim Melissa Russo told The Guardian newspaper: "It's indecent. He says that he kept Julie and Melissa, so that's rape, kidnapping and sadism for starters. He talks about a network when we are already at the end of the investigation. It is now up to the judge to draw up the (trial) plan with what he has. If he says there is a network but offers no further details, nothing will change. But if he cooperates then maybe the investigation will be restarted."
VTM, the Flemish television channel that ran the interview, would not comment on whether Dutroux knew a journalist was interviewing him.
However, in excerpts VTM made available before the interview, Dutroux said: "I was in regular contact with people belonging to that network. But the justice system doesn't want to investigate this lead."
Dutroux's trial, which has been postponed several times, was delayed again while forensic tests were carried out on 6,000 hair samples taken from the basement cell of his house. These tests will attempt to determine if the victims had other visitors.
After Seven Years, A Trial
It seems amazing that it has taken seven years to bring Dutroux to trial, with all the delays and postponements, but now it is scheduled to begin on March 1, 2004. Facing trial with Dutroux is his wife, Michele Martin, 45, businessman Jean-Michel Nihoul, 63. and Michel Lelievre. Not only are Dutroux and his three alleged accomplices on trial, but also the entire criminal justice system in Belgium.
Expatica.com wrote in January, 2004 that a survey published by a leading Belgian newspaper found that almost 60 percent of people living in Belgium have no faith in the criminal justice system.
William Langley of Telegraph News wrote: "If the stakes are high for the defendants, they are no lower for the Belgian government. For already the Dutroux case has exposed a scarcely believable degree of official incompetence and complacency He (Dutroux) had been jailed for child rape in 1989, but under Belgium's ultra-liberal parole rules was freed after serving only three years of a 13-year sentence. An assessment made prior to his release stated that he was no longer a danger to the public."
Like most pedophiles, after his release, Dutroux went right back to his outrageous crimes. The police were given very specific tips, but there was no competent follow up, despite his criminal record.
The most glaring police failure occurred when they finally got around to searching Dutroux's house where two girls were being held prisoner and failed to find the girls that were in the house at that time.
Despite the biggest judicial investigation in the nation's history, almost no one in Belgium believes the full story of Dutroux's activities will ever be known, even after the trial. The trial is expected to last three months and some 600 witnesses are expected to be called. The Belgian justice minister believes that the trial may cost over 4.5 million Euros.
The Dutroux arrest revealed monumental levels of police bungling and saw public confidence in Belgium's law enforcement agencies plummet to an all-time low.
But according to prosecuting magistrate Damien Vandermeersch, far from improving the way they work, since 1996, Belgium's national and local police forces have actually gotten worse. Vandermeersch said that a series of recent police forms have left officers hamstrung by bureaucracy and drowning in a sea of paperwork.
Expatica sums it up this way: "The impression this case gives is that justice in Belgium is not so much blind as totally headless".
A Trial to Remember
The long awaited trial opened on March 1, 2004. Before it began, Dutroux had already told the media that he was just a pawn in a network of pedophiles and that Michel Nihoul, also on trial, was the brains behind the network.
The following day, the prosecutor, Michel Bourlet, seemed to agree that Dutroux was not acting on his own, but was part of a network, along with Nihoul, colleague Michel Lelievre and his former wife, Michelle Martin. However, Bourlet did not suggest that the network was any larger than the individuals who had already been charged with Dutroux.
On the third day of the trial, Expatica.com reported that Dutroux claimed that Lelievre and two police officers had actually helped him kidnap An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambreckx, 19, who were found raped and murdered. He accused his co-defendants of murdering Eefje and An, as well as two other girls.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph U.K. reported that Judge Jacques Langlois, who had compiled an enormous body of research on the case, testified that over the years, Dutroux honed his stalking, abduction, rape and brainwashing skills.
Langlois also testified that Dutroux's ex-wife, Michelle Martin, left two girls to starve while Dutroux was in prison. He said that "Ms Martin had told him she had been asked by her husband to feed Lejeune and Russo when he was jailed for four months for car theft in late 1995." But she was afraid that the girls would attack her.
March 4 brought the testimony of Judge Jean-Marc Connerotte who told the court that he was personally shocked at the "terrifying professionalism" that Dutroux displayed when he constructed the cell in his home to hide his victims. The cell had been specially designed to ventilate the air from the ceiling so that it would be difficult to detect the girls even with K-9 units.
Evans-Pritchard also wrote that Connerotte broke down in tears when he described "the bullet-proof vehicles and armed guards needed to protect him against the shadowy figures determined to stop the full truth coming out. Never before in Belgium has an investigating judge at the service of the kind been subjected to such pressure. We were told by police that [murder] contracts had been taken out against the magistrates." Connerotte testified that the investigation was seriously hampered by protection of suspects by people in the government. "Rarely," he said, "has so much energy been spent opposing an inquiry." He believed that the mafia had taken control of the case.
Connerotte was removed from the case after attending a dinner for the families of the victims, which instigated the protest march of some 300,000 people in Brussels. He had rescued two of the girls from the dungeon under Dutroux's home. When he tried to get them to come out of the dungeon, they were afraid that the pedophile group was coming to collect them and clung to Dutroux for protection.
"They thanked and embraced him, which is truly disgusting," Connerotte claimed. "That shows how far they had been conditioned."
The judge blamed the local police in the city of Charleroi for neglect and incompetence in their investigation and lack of follow-up which resulted in the starvation deaths of Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune, both 8 years old.
On March 18, a new controversy arose when a handcuff key was found in Dutroux's cell, apparently smuggled in a salt bag. Prison authorities were accused to trying to arrange Dutroux's escape. The alleged murderer had already accomplished one earlier prison escape.
On April 19, one of Dutroux's rape and kidnap victims, Sabine Dardenne, 20, told the court of her ordeal with the defendant when she was 12 years old. She had been held captive for 80 days in Dutroux's dungeon and vehemently rejected his apology given in court.
CNN.com reported, "As Dutroux watched with a smirk from the dock, she told the court he had made her believe her parents had abandoned her after refusing to pay a ransom for her release. She said Dutroux had posed as her protector, telling her he was keeping her from his boss who wanted to kill her."
On April 20, when Dardenne returned to a second day of testimony, CNN.com wrote that she "objected that Dutroux implied he had kidnapped another victim in 1996 to find her a friend."
"Is it not possible to silence this man?" she asked.
When Dutroux said he had protected her from a pedophile network, she countered, "So, if I understand you, I should be thankful?"
Another of Dutroux's victims that lived to testify against him testified that day. Laetitia Delhez, 22, was also rescued from the cellar along with Dardenne.
Defense lawyer Ronny Baudewyn was also outraged at the comments that Dutroux made to and about his victims.
On April 21, Expatica.com reported that co-defendant Michel Nihoul, a businessman, emphatically denied that he was in any way involved with Dutroux's crimes. Unlike Dutroux, Nihoul is not imprisoned during his trial.
The trial is expected to last into May.
One week after Delhez and Dardenne harrowing testimonies, the two women returned to the dungeon where they were held captive, beaten and repeatedly raped by Dutroux before being freed in 1996. Accompany the women were several judges, court officials, lawyers, family members of the victims and Dutroux. According to the BBC article "Dutroux Victims Return to Cell", the women returned to the house in Marcinelle to "come to terms" with their ordeal. They also wanted those present to understand the horrific conditions in which they were held captive and what they experienced.
Back in court, Dutroux continued to deny that he was a murderer, placing responsibility on his alleged accomplices, Michel Lelievre, Michel Nihoul and his ex-wife, Michelle Martin. However, Dutroux did confess to the rape and kidnapping charges against him for which he expressed his "sincere regret." Yet, for the victims it was already too late.
On June 14, 2004, the jury, consisting of eight women and four men were sent out to deliberate at the end of a three-month- trial. The jurists convened at a fortified Arlon army barracks to review approximately 400,000 pages of evidence, including the testimonies of over 500 witnesses. Moreover, the judge gave them 243 questions to evaluate, pertaining to the criminal charges against Dutroux, Martin, Lelievre and Nihoul.
It took a little more than three days for the jury to come back with a verdict. On June 17th, Dutroux was found guilty of kidnapping and raping all six girls. He was also convicted of murdering An Marchel and Eefje Lambrecks, as well as his alleged accomplice Bernard Weinstein.
Additionally, Lelievre was also found guilty of kidnapping but managed to escape murder charges. The jury has not yet come to a decision on the fate of Martin, who later admitted at trial to starving 8-year-old Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune to death. There is a strong chance that she will be condemned for the children's deaths.
According to the BBC article "Child Killer Convicted in Belgium," the jury could not agree on a verdict concerning the case of Nihoul. In both his and Martin's cases, the jury was sent back to further review evidence and complete the 243 questions handed down by the judge. A verdict is expected sometime around June 24th, around the same time Dutroux's sentence will be handed down.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison. However, they could be eligible for parole after 10 years on good behavior. Belgium has no death penalty, yet the Dutroux case has prompted many to rethink capital punishment laws. It is clear that there is no place for people like Dutroux in today's society.
June 22, 2004 brought a life sentence to Dutroux. He was also "put at the government's disposition," which means that if he were released at some point in the future, the government could send him back to prison. Michelle Martin was sentenced to 30 years in jail and Michel Lelievre got 25 years.
Michel Nihoul was sentenced to 5 years.
What has never been satisfactorily answered for the people of Belgium is whether the network of pedophiles that Dutroux claimed to be serving ever really existed.
Profile: Marc Dutroux
Marc Dutroux, who has been convicted of child murder, kidnap and rape, has a criminal record going back 25 years.
In 1979, the Belgian received the first of a series of convictions for theft, violent muggings, drug-dealing and trading in stolen cars.
Sexual crimes came later - in 1986, Mr Dutroux and his then-wife Michelle Martin were arrested for the abductions and rape of five girls, for which they were both imprisoned.
His own mother wrote to the prison director to warn about her son.
She complained that Mr Dutroux was using supervised visits to his grandmother's house to write up an inventory of the elderly woman's possessions, leaving her anxious and distressed.
"I have known for a long time and with good cause my eldest's temperament," she wrote.
"What I do not know, and what all the people who know him fear, it's what he has in mind for the future."
According to the French newspaper Liberation, the letters went unanswered.
Dutroux was born on 6 November 1956 in Brussels, the eldest of five children.
His parents, Victor and Jeanine, were teachers who, he says, frequently beat him.
Certainly, his relationship with his parents was strained, and soon after they separated in 1971, he left home.
He became a drifter, and according to press reports, a homosexual prostitute.
By the time he was 20, Mr Dutroux was married to his first wife.
They had two sons, now in their early 20s, but she says he beat her and had affairs, and they separated in the early 1980s.
One of his mistresses was Ms Martin, who went on to become his second wife and who is standing trial alongside Mr Dutroux and two other alleged accomplices, on lesser charges.
The couple are now separated.
Crimes ranging from violent mugging to drug-dealing turned into a lucrative activity said to have helped him amass at least seven houses, according to the Associated Press.
He was sentenced to 13 years in 1989, but was released on parole after just three years in 1992, under a government scheme that was supposed to keep a close eye on sexual offenders in the community.
A panel of psychiatrists who analysed him after his arrest in 1996 found that Mr Dutroux did not fit the classic profile of a paedophile, according to the Associated Press.
"The age of the victims did not seem to arouse in him any given effect or to play a particular role, beyond allowing him to kidnap them, to manipulate them, to confine them," they said.
There were, however, warnings of his continued potentially dangerous behaviour.
It was some time soon after his release from prison that the former electrician, now receiving state benefits, started to build his basement "dungeon".
He went on to kidnap six girls between 1995 and 1996.
Only two of his victims, 12-year-old Sabine Dardenne and 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez, were found alive.
24 June 1995: Eight-year-olds Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo disappear near their home in Grace-Hollogne, east Belgium.
23 August 1995: An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambrecks, 19, go missing during a holiday at the seaside town of Ostend.
6 December 1995: Mr Dutroux is arrested on car theft and other charges. He is convicted and spends nearly four months in prison.
28 May 1996: Sabine Dardenne, 12, disappears while riding her bike to school in the town of Kain, south-west Belgium.
9 August 1996: Laetitia Delhez, 14, disappears after leaving a swimming pool in her home town of Bertrix, south-east Belgium.
13 August 1996: Mr Dutroux, his ex-wife Michelle Martin and Michel Lelievre are detained in Sars-la-Buissiere, south Belgium.
15 August 1996: Mr Dutroux leads police to makeshift cell in house in Charleroi suburb of Marcinelle where Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez are found alive. Both have been drugged and sexually abused.
16 August 1996: Mr Dutroux admits kidnapping An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks. Fourth suspect Michel Nihoul is detained.
17 August 1996: Mr Dutroux admits killing suspected accomplice Bernard Weinstein and takes police to the bodies of Julie Lejeune, Melissa Russo and Weinstein buried in the backyard of a Sars-la-Buissiere house.
3 September 1996: Police find remains of An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks under a garden shed at Weinstein's house in Charleroi suburb of Jumet.
20 October 1996: Some 300,000 people march on Brussels in support of victims' families and to protest against the authorities for the bungled investigation into missing girls.
9 April 1997: Parliamentary interim report into the Dutroux case finds police "inhumane, inept, inefficient and ill-equipped" and lists blunders and rivalry during probe.
23 April 1998: Mr Dutroux escapes custody during a court visit but is swiftly recaptured. Belgium's police chief, justice minister and interior minister resign.
1 March 2004: Trial begins in town of Arlon.
Trial: Key moments
4 March 2004: Jean-Marc Connerotte, who led the initial investigation, testifies.
18 March 2004: A key to a pair of handcuffs is found near Mr Dutroux's prison cell, hidden in a bag of salt in a kitchen. The keys fit Mr Dutroux's cuffs.
19 April 2004: Sabine Dardenne appears in court and gives dramatic testimony against her abuser - asking him why he did not kill her.
20 April 2004: Laetitia Delhez takes the stand, describing how she was chained to a bed and raped after being abducted.
27 April 2004: The court and the two surviving victims, Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez, visit the cell where the girls were imprisoned.
24 May 2004: The lawyers for both sides begin making their final arguments.
10 June 2004: Mr Dutroux makes a final appeal to the court in which he says he is not a murderer.
14 June 2004: The jury retires to consider its verdict.
17 June 2004: Dutroux convicted of murder and leading a child kidnap gang.