17 June 2004
BRUSSELS – Marc Dutroux, the most hated man in Belgium, was on Thursday found guilty of three counts of murder and looked set go to prison for life.
The jury in the Dutroux trial said shortly after 2pm that the accused was guilty of murdering 17-year-old An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, who was 19.
Dutorux was also found guilty of murdering his former accomplice, Bernard Weinstein.
In addition, the jury said Dutroux was guilty of kidnapping two eight-year-old girls, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo.
The two girls died from starvation in a secret cell in one of Dutruox’s houses while the murderer was serving a jail sentence.
Dutroux was also found guilty of kidnapping two other girls, 14 year old Laetitia Delhez and Sabine Dardenne, who was 12.
They were both rescued in August 1996 after police arrested Dutroux was arrested in connection with thier kidnap.
The court and jury must still formally decide on the sentencen Dutroux will receive but the crimes he has been found guilty of mean he will almost undoubtedly go to prison for life.
The jury found that two of Dutroux’s co-defendants – his ex wife Michelle Martin and former sidekick Michel Lelievre – were guilty of helping him to kidnap and hold prisoner the six girls.
Martin and Lelievre have not yet been sentenced but risk heavy prison terms.
The fourth person on trial in Arlon – Belgian businessman Michel Nihoul – was acquited of taking part in the abduction of any of the girls.
But his fate was decided by the three judge bench in charge of the trial and not the jury, who were unable to decide whether or not Nihoul was guilty.
Seven jurors said he was responsible for the crimes while five said he wasn’t.
However, the judges ordered the jury to reconsider whether they believed Nihoul was guilty of complicity in the kidnappings, in other words that he knew they were to take place.
The jury did say on Thursday that Nihoul was guilty on counts of smuggling both drugs and people into Belgium.
The 12 jurors reached thier verdict after four days of behind closed doors deliberations at a top security army base.
The Dutroux trial began in town of Arlon in March, eight years after Dutroux was first arrested for the crimes he was today found guilty of.
But while today’s verdict has gone some way to drawing a line under the terrible events that led up to Duroux’s trial many questions remain unanswered.
Throughout the trial Dutroux has insisted that he was just a small player in a wider paedophile network that included highly-placed individuals.
However, the trial in Arlon limited itself to the crimes committed by Dutroux and his accomplices.
Any questions involving criminal or paedophile networks are the subject of a separate investigation, which is still underway.
The Dutroux affair brought hundreds of thousands of Belgians out on the streets in the so called ‘White March’ of 1996 to protest alleged government incompetence in the case.
It also led to the downfall of two cabinet ministers and the country’s police chief after the accused briefly escaped from a courthouse.
Dutroux, who has already served jail terms for the abduction and rape of five girls, has been in custody since his arrest in 1996.
The trial has been a harrowing experience for all concerned. Witnesses and parents of the young victims broke down in tears as the full horror of what happened eight years ago emerged in court.
The hearings revealed that police searched a house belonging to Dutroux three times without discovering a secret cell where he sexually abused his child victims.
In June 1995, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo disappeared from the streets of Liege in eastern Belgium.
Their bodies were found buried in the garden of a property belonging to Dutroux in August 1996.
They had starved to death, and had been repeatedly raped.
Shortly afterwards the bodies of An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks – who had disappeared in August 1995 – were found in the garden of another Dutroux house.
They too had been raped and beaten, autopsy reports showed.
The discoveries came after Dutroux was arrested by police hunting for Laetitia Delhez.
She and Sabine Dardenne were subsequently rescued from Dutroux’s dungeon.
They, too, had suffered repeated sexual assault.
When Dutroux led police to the cellar, the girls hid from their rescuers and then embraced their torturer, convinced by him that he was their protector from a shadowy gang.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news