14 June 2004
BRUSSELS – The jury in the trial of suspected Belgian child murderer Marc Dutroux on Monday retired to consider its verdict.
In all 24 men and women – 12 jurors and their 12 deputies – have been taken to an army barracks where they will remain under high security guard until they reach a decision on whether Dutroux and his three co-defendants are guilty of all the charges against them.
During their deliberations the jurors will have no contact with the outside world.
They will not be able to use portable telephones or computers and will be banned from watching, listening to or reading any media reports on the trial.
It is not known how long the jurors will take to reach their verdict although almost all commentators seemed to agree that they would not emerge from their deliberations on Monday.
Marc Dutroux risks a lifetime prison sentence if found guilty.
The most serious offences he is alleged to have committed are the kidnap and murder of two girls, 17-year-old An Marchal and 19-year-old Eefje Lambrecks as well as the murder of Bernard Weinstein, a former accomplice.
Dutroux is also accused of kidnapping four other girls.
Two of them, eight year olds Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, allegedly died of starvation in one of Dutroux’s houses while he was serving a prison sentence.
The other two, Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez – then aged 12 and 14 – were freed after police arrested Dutroux in 1996.
Both Dardenne and Delhez gave evidence during Dutroux’s trial.
Dutroux’s ex-wife Michelle Martin risks up to 35 years in jail if the jury finds her guilty of helping her husband commit the alleged crimes.
Michel Lelievre, a former accomplice of the suspected child murderer, also risks a 35-year jail sentence if found guilty.
Belgian businessman Michel Nihoul, who is accused of drug dealing and of masterminding the kidnaps Dutroux is alleged to have carried out could go to jail for up to 25 years if found guilty.
In the event of a guilty verdict, the judge and jury would decide together on the exact sentences the accused would receive.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news