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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Dutroux victim confronts abuser
Sabine Dardenne
Sabine Dardenne told the court she tried to escape
A young woman who was kidnapped and repeatedly raped as a child by alleged killer Marc Dutroux has confronted him at his trial in Belgium.

In a hushed court, Sabine Dardenne asked him: "Why did you not kill me?" She was 12 when he held her captive for 80 days at his home in 1996.

The 47-year-old ex-electrician replied that he had no intention of doing so.

Mr Dutroux admits to abduction and rape charges - but denies involvement in the deaths of four girls.

Ms Dardenne is the first of two girls rescued from a cell in Mr Dutroux's basement to address the court in the southern Belgian town of Arlon.

BBC correspondent Allan Little in Arlon says that during her dramatic testimony she was composed and mature - answering questions very clearly and unambiguously.

The other survivor, Laetitia Delhez, is due to testify on Tuesday.

'Room of agony'

Ms Dardenne, who is now 20, told the court on Monday that at one point she tried to escape by forcing the cell door open.

But she said Mr Dutroux was so angry when he found out that she never tried again.

Turning directly to face Mr Dutroux in the courtroom, she asked: "I would like to know, coming from the man who complained that I was pigheaded, why he didn't kill me."

KIDNAPPED GIRLS
Police search for evidence of the crimes
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

She also said Mr Dutroux was the only man she saw throughout her captivity and the only person who abused her.

Mr Dutroux told the court that he recognised he had abused Ms Dardenne, saying he took "responsibility for that".

"I acknowledge my mistakes. I acknowledge that I abused her. But for me there was never any question of killing her," he said.

Ms Dardenne also asked Mr Dutroux's ex-wife, Michelle Martin, why she as a mother stood by and allowed the abuse to happen.

Ms Martin replied she did not expect Ms Dardenne to forgive the unforgivable.

Ms Dardenne and Ms Delhez were released when Mr Dutroux led police to his basement after his arrest.

Last week, the court heard details of letters written by Ms Dardenne to her family while she was held captive.

In the letters, which she was promised would be sent but never were, she described what she called "the room of agony" and said she did not think she would ever see her family again.

'Conspiracy' claims

Mr Dutroux is on trial with three others, including his ex-wife, over abductions, rapes and murders of girls in the mid-1990s.

Eight-year-olds Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune died as captives in Mr Dutroux's home.

Two teenagers, An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, were murdered. Mr Dutroux blames his co-defendants for their deaths.

Many Belgians hope the trial may provide answers to broader questions - such as why it took so long to catch Mr Dutroux and whether he was part of a larger paedophile ring, as he claims.

Our correspondent says Ms Dardenne's testimony that Mr Dutroux was the only man who abused her would seem to give the lie to claims of a wider conspiracy.

More than 400 witnesses are expected to give evidence in the trial, which is expected to last until June.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Allan Little
"The court seemed mesmerised by her composure"



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