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Tuesday, February 17, 1998 Published at 16:41 GMT

World: Europe

Belgian paedophile report says police were inept
image: [ The parliamentarians blamed police incompetence ]
The parliamentarians blamed police incompetence

An official report by the Belgian parliament into a series of paedophile murders has accused the police of negligence, amateurism and incompetence in investigating the cases.

The report, made public on Tuesday, rejects allegations that the chief suspect in the affair, Marc Dutroux, was protected by senior police officers.

However, it says that the investigation into his activities was handled so badly that, in effect, he enjoyed "indirect protection."

Dutroux is currently awaiting trial for the murder of four girls found dead at his house in 1996.

[ image: Chief suspect Marc Dutroux]
Chief suspect Marc Dutroux
Two of them, eight-year-old friends Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, starved to death after being left for months in a specially-constructed dungeon.

The house had been visited several times by detectives, who heard the sound of screams but did nothing about it.

In an earlier report, the parliamentary commission severely criticised the decision to release Dutroux from prison, where he had been sent in 1989 for raping a minor.

The latest report, which was endorsed by 10 out of 14 members of a parliamentary panel, ends 17 months of hearings.

The four members who abstained thought its conclusions did not go far enough in allocating blame.

Paul Marchal, the father of one of the victims, also criticised the commission for failing to lay the blame for everything that went wrong at the door of the government.

"The traditional parties in power have once again managed to protect themselves," he said.

[ image: A protest on Sunday calling for police reform]
A protest on Sunday calling for police reform
The paedophile murders prompted massive public disquiet in Belgium, and provoked a crisis of confidence in the police and the judiciary.

There were big demonstrations calling for an overhaul of the law enforcement system - the most recent took place last Sunday and was attended by some 20,000 people.

The Belgian government has said it will overhaul the national police force in an attempt to allay public concern.

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  Internet Links

The Belgian Senate

Belgian parliament's paedophile report - in French and Flemish

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