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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 19:08 GMT
Dutroux denies prison escape bid
Suspect Marc Dutroux
Dutroux says he heard about the find on the radio
Alleged Belgian child killer Marc Dutroux has denied an escape plan after a handcuff key was found near his cell.

Mr Dutroux was "surprised" at Tuesday's find in a salt container, in a cupboard along the corridor from his cell in the south-eastern town of Arlon.

Mr Dutroux is on trial over the abductions, rapes and murders of girls in the mid-1990s. He escaped from custody for a few hours in April 1998.

The government ordered an inquiry and the foreign minister expressed outrage.

"What kind of system are we living in?" Louis Michel asked local VRT radio news.

"Dutroux is capable of a lot of things. There was a clear attempt to provide him with that key."

'Heard it on the radio'

Mr Dutroux, 47, has been in prison awaiting trial since 1996. He has confessed to some of the kidnappings and rapes, but denies murder.

Two government ministers resigned in 1998 after he escaped from a courthouse and was found near the French border.

Mr Dutroux's lawyer said his client had only heard about the find "when he listened to the radio on Thursday morning".

"He is very surprised that there has been a new incident, with which he has nothing to do, and he raised the possibility that someone is trying to discredit him," said Ronny Baudewijn.

According to a prison official quoted by the Belga news agency, the key did not fit handcuffs used on Mr Dutroux.

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