Belgium frees Dutroux accomplice on parole in convent
The notorious accomplice and ex-wife of paedophile serial killer Marc Dutroux won parole on Tuesday midway through her 30-year jail sentence -- on condition she moves into a convent.
Under orders to steer clear of the outside world, Michelle Martin was freed from a Brussels jail by a five-man panel of judges who spent about an hour hearing submissions from plaintiffs and her lawyer before throwing out the grounds of two appeals against a July 31 regional court decision.
The 52-year-old, jailed for a second time in 2004 for helping Dutroux hold a string of young victims prisoner and for complicity in the deaths of two girls found starved to death in a locked cellar, was to leave her jail in southern Brussels on Tuesday evening. She would make her way to the convent about an hour’s drive away in Malonne, southern Belgium.
A media scrum was in place awaiting the arrival of Martin, part of one of Europe’s most infamous criminal pairings — the Belgian equivalent of the 1960s Moors murderers in England, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.
Martin is still considered Belgium’s “most-hated woman,” but “she wants to succeed in her resettlement… and wishes to repay her debt to society,” said her lawyer, Thierry Moreau.
Authorities have stepped up security around the convent, home to about a dozen elderly nuns.
The initial decision by a regional court to free her after 16 years behind bars had provoked anger among victims’ families, prompted demonstrations around the convent and triggered a debate in Belgium about imposing full-term jail sentencing for crimes judged the most serious.
A previous attempt to place Martin in a French convent also fell foul of French authorities’ fears over public order.
An AFP correspondent at Belgium’s federal Court of Appeal in the capital said the judges ruled shortly after 1400 GMT that the grounds for two appeals, were inadmissible or unfounded.
One submission was advanced by the prosecutor, Claude Michaux, for the western Mons court that decided to release Martin.
The other appeal bid was a joint one filed by victims’ families including Jean-Denis Lejeune, whose daughter Julie was one of the girls Dutroux and Martin killed, and Laetitia Delhez, who survived a kidnap ordeal.
“Disappointed” by the decision, Lejeune insisted that “the fight goes on.”
Lejeune is principally seeking full-term sentencing for crimes considered the most serious, notably those against children.
The families of Dutroux’s victims fear that one day it may be Dutroux himself, currently 55, who walks free.
“He is convinced (that will happen) and believes that he too deserves a chance to be reintegrated into society,” Dutroux’s lawyer Ronny Baudewijn said on Tuesday.
Martin’s fifth bid for parole succeeded on the condition that she “keeps her distance” from relatives of victims.
She will not become a nun, but must observe total discretion vis-a-vis the outside world.
Dutroux was jailed for life in 2004 for the kidnap and rape in the 1990s of six young and teenage girls, and the murder of the four of them who died.
Former schoolteacher Martin, who married Dutroux in 1983 and had three children by him before their divorce in 2003, had already served time in the 1980s for previous kidnappings.
A sister at the convent that is to take her in said at the time of the initial court decision that it had accepted the “challenge” of taking Martin in, while adding that “our hearts as women are troubled.”