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Thursday, 7 May, 1998, 06:33 GMT 07:33 UK
Dutroux re-enacts escape
Armoured vehicle and row of police
After the embarrassment of the Dutroux escape, Belgian police were taking no chances
Belgian child rapist and murder suspect Marc Dutroux returned this week to the place where he made his spectacular escape from police custody last month.

This time he was accompanied by more than 200 police officers, 10 mounted police and a helicopter crew, in stark contrast to the two officers who were guarding him when he escaped on 23 April. Dutroux now claims that one of those officers was asleep.

During the re-enactment in the southern Belgian town of Neufchateau on Wednesday, the grey Mercedes in which Dutroux was travelling was barely visible behind a phalanx of police and armoured cars.

It was hoped the operation would show how Dutroux managed to get away, and help to ensure that the ridicule that has been heaped on the Belgian police and security forces since the escape would never be repeated.

Police and Mercedes
Police surrounded the car in which Dutroux travelled
However, the judges in charge of the inquiry into the escape said the re-enactment brought them no closer to establishing how Dutroux gave police the slip during a visit to a court building to inspect prosecution files. Dutroux remained at large for three hours before being recaptured.

According to Dutroux's version of events, one of the officers supposed to be guarding him on 23 April was asleep with his gun belt at his side. Dutroux said he needed to overpower only one man before making his escape.

The officers said Dutroux was able to get the better of both of them, grab a gun and sprint out of the court because one of them had his hands full with the files.

Embarrassment

Dutroux, who has already served time in prison for child rape, is awaiting trial for the murder of four young girls and the abduction and abuse of two others. As Belgian's most notorious criminal, his escape from police custody was hugely embarrassing to the Belgian authorities - especially when it emerged that only two officers were guarding him.

The incident led to the resignation of two cabinet ministers and the head of the Belgian gendarmerie, though Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene has weathered opposition calls for his own resignation.

If it is established that one of the policemen was asleep, he is likely to face criminal charges.

See also:

28 Apr 98 | Europe
Belgian police chief steps down
24 Apr 98 | Europe
Protests over paedophile escape
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