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Last Updated: Monday, 24 February, 2003, 19:41 GMT
Belgian kidnap victim tells story
Suspect Marc Dutroux
One of the victims of the notorious Belgian suspected paedophile Marc Dutroux has for the first time told the horrific story of her kidnapping ordeal.

Sabine Dardenne, then aged 12, was snatched on 28 May 1996, and spent the next 80 days confined to a cellar, where it is alleged she was raped and psychologically abused until her kidnapper was apprehended by police.

Dutroux is yet to stand trial for the rape and murder of four girls, and the rape of two others, including Ms Dardenne, found alive together at one of his properties.

Now 18, Ms Dardenne told several Belgian newspapers she still rereads the letters and journal she wrote during her captivity - "in order not to forget, and to prepare to go through his trial... He must pay."

Chained up

She said she was snatched by Dutroux and an accomplice, Michel Lelievre, while cycling to school, bundled into a van, and lifted inside a house inside a metal trunk.

"He chained me to the bed by my neck," she told Belgian newspapers Le Soir, La Derniere Heure and Vers L'Avenir.

"I stayed there two or three days."

Ms Dardenne said Dutroux later moved her down to the cellar, where he had built a secret compartment equipped with "a mattress and bare light bulb."

"He passed down cans after me - cold tins of meatballs in tomato sauce, and bread that turned green after two or three days."

Although she said she sometimes heard voices outside, she only ever saw Dutroux. He allegedly justified his acts by saying he was protecting her from a worse fate.


"According to him, he was saving my life. He was the kind one, he was protecting me against someone who wished me harm and had demanded money from my parents.

"In this way, he was my friend, my saviour."

Brussels demonstration mourning the murdered girls and demanding judicial reforms
Delays in bringing Dutroux to trial brought thousands out onto the streets
But when she disobeyed him, Dutroux would threaten to "hand me over to some gang or other he knew... [who] would torture me and kill me after making me suffer."

The teenager said one of his cruellest tricks was to lead her to believe that her parents knew of her whereabouts but had simply abandoned her.

"He said I could write letters. I wrote to my parents. I told them about my day, as if I were on holiday.

"I wished them all the happiness I could. According to him, my parents were mean. I still loved them even so. I just wanted to go home."

Secret symbols

She said she believed Dutroux posted these letters. However, Dutroux would read them and use the information gleaned to pretend he had spoken to her parents and siblings on the phone, reporting back on her pet dog and saying the family had taken out the paddling pool for summer, she said.

Police investigators discovered about 30 such letters under a carpet upon her release.

On a calendar she used to mark the passing of time, she used symbols to denote events: circles for her mother and nurse's days off; crosses on days she saw Dutroux.

Stars denoted "other scenes", her lawyer told Le Soir, alluding to days when she was raped.

Ms Dardenne was later joined by another abductee, 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez.

Days later police freed the pair.

Dutroux, his wife Michele and Mr Lelievre are finally to face trial after years of delay as the police tried to determine the extent of a wider paedophile ring described by Dutroux.


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