Stacy and Nathalie
Step-sisters Stacy and Nathalie shared troubled childhoods. Together, they also shared death. Aaron Gray-Block reports.
For 19 days the nation held its breath.
Stacy Lemmens and Nathalie Mahy
But that miracle failed to occur: the bodies of Nathalie Mahy and her seven-year-old step-sister Stacy Lemmens were found dumped in a storm water system on Wednesday 28 June.
Their bodies were found just a couple of hundred metres from the Liège pub where they disappeared on the night of 9 June.
The discovery was, at least, an end to the mystery: what had happened to the two girls?
Earlier, Nathalie's father, Didier Mahy, had said in a television interview: "Nathalie is still alive. I feel it". But his feelings appear to have deceived him.
All four parents of the step-sisters have now been placed under the care of victim support workers and have refused to offer statements until they come to terms with the deaths of the girls.
The parents were able to view the bodies on Thursday morning and say their final farewells.
Stacy had lived at 10 addresses in her short life and never knew her biological mother, Christiane Grianziero, who separated from 35-year-old steel worker Thierry Lemmens shortly after Stacy's birth.
Stacy and her eight-year-old brother moved with their father from one address and step-mother to another.
Grianziero was released from jail in April after serving time for drugs and prostitution crimes.
Child welfare officers kept tabs on the family, which eventually linked up with the family of unemployed mother Cathérine Dizier.
Dizier and Thierry did not live together officially; their apartments were in the same building. But in reality, they had a relationship and Stacy's step-brother, Sylvain, was born last year.
Dizier also brought three other children into the family, including Nathalie, who in the past year appeared to have regained structure in her life after the separation of her parents in 2001, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported.
Father Didier Mahy gained custody of his five children last year, but the three youngest still went to their mother on Wednesdays and Fridays. Previously, Nathalie had only spent her weekends with her father.
Mahy claims the custody ruling was the turning point in Nathalie's life, stressing that she had started improving at school and was benefiting from greater structure in her life.
Justice authorities suspect that the two girls were lured to a place where the kidnapper or kidnappers would not easily be disturbed.
But only the culprit or culprits can give an accurate account of the girls' final moments and the route they took the night they disappeared.
Suspect Abdallah Ait Oud
An autopsy on 28 June was to give the exact cause of death and whether the girls were sexually abused.
Initial indications are that Nathalie was sexually abused: she was found with her jeans rolled down to her knees and her pants pushed to one side.
Commercial broadcaster VTM has also cited sources claiming the autopsy revealed Nathalie was "very badly" abused.
It also said new tips have been given to police claiming the only suspect in the case harassed the girls a couple of hours before they disappeared.
There are two likely routes from the pub where the girls disappeared to where their bodies were found.
Both offer benefits for a kidnapper, leading either via a couple of streets with houses to an open terrain that leads to the railway or via a playground to an isolated and dark sports area and construction site.
Main suspect and convicted child sex offender Abdallah Ait Oud was familiar with the terrai