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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 19:02 GMT
Dutroux blames others for kidnap
Marc Dutroux in court, picture masked under Belgian law
Dutroux denies murdering four girls
Belgium's alleged child killer Marc Dutroux has blamed his ex-wife for the crimes in his first day of testimony.

He is accused of kidnapping and repeatedly raping six girls in the 1990s, and killing four of them.

He admitted building an underground cell to hold kidnapped girls, but he told the court on Wednesday he was acting for a "big crime ring".

A lawyer for one of the alleged victims responded angrily to the testimony, saying it made him feel "like crying".

Mr Dutroux has admitted kidnapping two teenage girls and raping his captives, but denies kidnapping the younger girls and the charges of murder.

Starved to death

The BBC's Angus Roxburgh in Arlon says journalists in the public gallery were left stunned and some in tears by the evidence given by Marc Dutroux and his ex-wife.

I hope Dutroux finally tells us what happened to our kids
Victim's father

He says Mr Dutroux answered the judge's questions with chilling self-assurance and detachment.

The defendant claimed he had nothing to do with the July 1995 kidnapping of the two eight-year-olds, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo.

He even claimed he had been angry when he came home to find the girls there, but was persuaded by his then-wife, Michelle Martin, to keep them.

Ms Martin admitted she starved the girls to death while her husband was in prison for several months.

"I know I have some responsibility in the deaths of Julie and Melissa. I was too scared to go down [into the basement]... I regret infinitely what happened," she told the court.

Mr Dutroux said he had taken part of the blame when he was arrested in order to protect Ms Martin.

Georges-Henri Beauthier, a lawyer for one of the girls who survived, said Mr Dutroux blamed everyone but himself.

"He should accept responsibility for what he has done," he told reporters during a break in the proceedings.

Childhood

Mr Dutroux referred regularly to his upbringing in testimony on Wednesday.

DEFENDANTS
Marc Dutroux, 47 - unemployed electrician charged with kidnap, rape, murder
Michelle Martin, 44 - Dutroux's estranged wife, charged with conspiracy to kidnap
Michel Nihoul, 62 - businessman charged with kidnapping
Michel Lelievre, 32, charged with kidnapping, rape, drug possession
"It was the same old story: my mother couldn't stand me and my father didn't want to accept me as his son, knowing that he wasn't my real father," he said in court.

Prosecutor Michel Bourlet charges that Mr Dutroux kept the girls locked in makeshift cells in his basement and regularly raped them.

Mr Dutroux told the court that two policemen took part in the kidnappings of An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambrecks, 19, in August 1995.

Our correspondent said he repeatedly used the word "network" to imply the existence of a paedophile ring that he merely served.

Bullet-proof dock

Under Belgian law, photographs taken in court can only be used in full with Mr Dutroux's permission, so images of him in the dock have been partly masked, in line with his wishes.

Mr Dutroux is being tried in a bullet-proof dock amid tight security.

KIDNAPPED GIRLS
Julie Lejeune, 8, allegedly starved
Melissa Russo, 8, allegedly starved
An Marchal, 17, buried in garden
Eefje Lambrecks, 19, buried in garden
Sabine Dardenne, then aged 12 - survived
Laetitia Delhez, then aged 14 - survived
According to post-mortem examination reports quoted at the trial, the two eight-year-olds were left to starve to death after being raped.

Police say the other two victims who died were drugged before being buried alive.

One of the two girls who survived, Sabine Dardenne, is planning to give evidence against him.

About 500 witnesses are expected to give evidence in the trial, which will probably last until June.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Emma-Jane Kirby
"The Belgian people are determined to get the truth"



SEE ALSO:
Trial torments Belgian town
01 Mar 04  |  Europe
Father's long wait for justice
02 Mar 04  |  Europe
Profile: Marc Dutroux
01 Mar 04  |  Europe


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