[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Child killer convicted in Belgium
Marc Dutroux
Dutroux had admitted kidnapping and raping the girls
Belgian paedophile Marc Dutroux has been found guilty of abduction, rape and murder after a three-month trial.

The 12-member jury convicted Dutroux of leading a gang that kidnapped and raped six girls in the mid-1990s, leading to the deaths of four of them.

It found him guilty of killing two of the girls - teenagers An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks - and an accomplice.

Hundreds of witnesses, including two survivors who were rescued from Dutroux's home, testified against him.

The case, heard in the town of Arlon, has been dubbed Belgium's trial of the century.

The bodies of Ms Marchal, 17, and Ms Lambrecks, 19, were found in 1996 in the garden of a house in the suburbs of the city of Charleroi owned by Dutroux. Post-mortem reports showed they had been raped and beaten before being drugged and buried alive.

Marc Dutroux, 47, unemployed electrician: Guilty of kidnap, rape, murder
Michelle Martin, 44, Dutroux's ex-wife: Guilty of conspiracy to kidnap
Michel Nihoul, 62, businessman: Acquitted of kidnapping
Michel Lelievre, 32: Guilty of kidnapping

The discovery came shortly after the bodies of two eight-year-olds, Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune, were found in the garden of another property belonging to Dutroux. They had been repeatedly raped before dying of starvation, post-mortem reports showed.

One of the surviving victims who gave evidence at the trial was Sabine Dardenne, who was kept in a purpose-built dungeon in Dutroux's basement for 80 days.

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

Laetitia Delhez - another young woman who was incarcerated in the same basement - also testified at the trial.

Mass of evidence

Dutroux had denied murdering the four dead girls but admitted kidnapping Ms Marchal and Ms Lambrecks. He also claimed the two eight-year-olds had died while he was in prison on car-theft charges - a claim the prosecution said it could not disprove.

Dutroux also denied murdering his accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, whose body was also found buried on one of his properties.

1993: Marc Dutroux freed early from child sex sentence. Soon after, girls start to disappear near his houses
13 August 1996: Dutroux arrested
15 August 1996: Sabine Dardenne, 12, and Laetitia Delhez, 14, found alive in basement of house
17 August 1996: Bodies of Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, both 8, found buried
13 September 1996: Bodies of Eefje Lambrecks, 19, and An Marchal, 17, are found
1 March 2004: Dutroux and other suspects go on trial

But he admitted abducting and raping the two girls found alive at his home, saying he was part of a wider paedophile ring in which he said his co-defendant, Michel Nihoul, played a key role.

Mr Nihoul was acquitted of involvement in the abductions of the girls, but was convicted of human trafficking and drugs charges.

Dutroux's ex-wife Michelle Martin was convicted of convicted of complicity in the girls' imprisonment.

During the trial, she admitted not feeding the two eight-year-olds while they were being held captive, saying she was frightened they would attack her.

Another of the accused, drug addict Michel Lelievre, was found guilty of kidnapping.

Before reaching their decision, the jury had to assess more than 400,000 pages of evidence and answer 243 questions set out by the trial judge.

Sentencing will be decided next week.

Conspiracy theory

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

It emerged during the trial that police had searched the house three times, but failed to locate the captives.

The BBC's Ray Furlong, in Arlon, says the police bungling of the investigation, along with the fact that Mr Dutroux was let out early after being convicted of five other rapes in the 1980s, gave rise to allegations that there was a wider paedophile conspiracy involving prominent government officials.

Prosecutors said they had found no evidence of such a conspiracy.

The parents of Dutroux's child victims expressed satisfaction with the verdicts.

"I'm relieved. It's very important that it has been said, that the jury has said: It's Dutroux that murdered your daughter'," said Paul Marchal, father of An.

Louisa Lejeune, mother of Julie, said: "A page has turned."

"It's recognition and that comes as a relief," she told reporters.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"In court, the guilty verdicts came one after another"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific