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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Dutroux in final courtroom appeal
Suspect Marc Dutroux
Dutroux has insisted he was part of a wider paedophile ring
Belgian paedophile Marc Dutroux has made a final courtroom appeal denying charges of killing four young girls.

Mr Dutroux admitted kidnapping and rape, but told the jury in the town of Arlon: "I am not a murderer."

He and three others have been on trial for more than three months in a case that has shocked Belgium and the world.

"I don't contest any of my real faults. I am here to be condemned," said Mr Dutroux, who could face a life sentence when the verdict is read next week.

The 47-year-old former electrician repeated his claim that he was part of a wider paedophile ring.

Mr Dutroux denies killing two teenage girls, An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, and two eight-year-olds, Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune, whose bodies were found buried at properties belonging to him.

In a lengthy statement, he expressed "sincere regret" for what he did, but called on his co-defendants to take responsibility for some of the crimes of which he was accused.

He said his ex-wife, Michelle Martin, knew what happened to the two youngest victims, and another co-defendant, Michel Nihoul, was the leader of a gang responsible for the other deaths.

Hundreds of witnesses - including both of Mr Dutroux's surviving victims - have testified during the trial.

Harrowing testimony

The trial included the harrowing testimony of Sabine Dardenne, who was kept in a cell in Mr Dutroux's basement for 80 days.

DEFENDANTS
Marc Dutroux, 47 - unemployed electrician charged with kidnap, rape, murder
Michelle Martin, 44 - Dutroux's ex-wife, charged with conspiracy to kidnap
Michel Nihoul, 62 - businessman charged with kidnapping
Michel Lelievre, 32, charged with kidnapping, rape, drug possession

She was repeatedly raped, before being rescued by police in 1996.

Laetitia Delhez - another young woman who was incarcerated in the same basement for six days - also testified.

It emerged during the trial that police had searched the house where they were kept on three occasions - and failed to locate the captives.

Mr Dutroux had previous convictions for child abduction and rape.

The Dutroux case has led to mass protests in Belgium over police and legal incompetence.

The jury are due to begin their deliberations on Monday and a verdict is expected next week.




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