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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Dutroux case jurors reach verdict
Marc Dutroux
Dutroux claims to be part of a wider paedophile ring
The jury in the murder trial of Belgian paedophile Marc Dutroux has started reading out its verdict in court.

Jurors reached a decision after four days at a military barracks near Arlon.

Mr Dutroux denies killing teenagers An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, and eight-year-olds Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune, but admits abduction and rape.

Mr Dutroux's ex-wife Michelle Martin, businessman Michel Nihoul, and drug addict Michel Lelievre are also on trial and have denied all charges.

The authorities say the reading of the verdict could take some time.

The jury has had to pore over more than 400,000 pages of sometimes grisly evidence and answer 243 questions set out by the trial judge.
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

The sentence will be announced next week.

The case has been dubbed Belgium's trial of the century.

Mr Dutroux, who has earlier convictions for child abduction and rape, has told the court he was part of a wider paedophile ring.

The BBC's Ray Furlong, in Arlon, says many Belgians also believe other people may have been involved, including prominent figures.

There were huge protests in 1996 over police mishandling of the case, amid allegations of a cover-up.

But the trial, while shocking, has not produced evidence for Mr Dutroux's claims.

Our correspondent says its focus on the small circle of Mr Dutroux and three co-defendants has been dismissed as a farce by some victims' family members.

Victims

The victims included Sabine Dardenne, who was kept in a cell in Mr 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 for six days - also testified.

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

The bodies of the two eight-year-olds were discovered in the garden of a property belonging to Mr Dutroux in August 1996. They had been repeatedly raped and had starved to death, reports showed.

The bodies of teenagers An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks were found buried in the garden of another of his properties a short time later. Post mortem reports showed they too had been raped and beaten.


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