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 Correspondent Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Belgium's X-Files - An Olenka Frenkiel Investigation
The case of abduction and murder against Belgium's infamous paedophile Marc Dutroux remains unresolved. He has not been brought to book for these heinous crimes.

There appears to be a steel veil drawn over the facts at the highest level and no one is prepared to expose those involved in this blatant cover-up.

Is this Belgian justice?

The Belgian justice system appears paralysed, unable to prosecute Dutroux, his wife or the third alleged accomplice, all now spending their sixth year behind bars.

Each year of imprisonment without trial strengthens their case against the Belgian authorities for a breach of their human rights.

So why the delay?

The official answer is that a series of hysterical conspiracy theories forced investigators to search for paedophile networks, which didn't exist.

But for observers of this debacle, that's exactly what didn't happen.

Far from being investigated, leads pointing to a network seem rather to have been blocked or buried.

The victims

The judge in charge of the Dutroux investigation, Jean Marc Connerotte, made an appeal for victims to tell police what they knew. He offered them anonymity.

Police began checking Regina Louf's stories, corroborating details, investigating how much was true and how much might be fantasy. They verified key elements of Regina's story and found at least one murder that she says she witnessed matched an unsolved murder. But then something changed.

Jean Marc Connerotte
Connerotte was sacked from the case
Judge and investigating team replaced

In October 1996, Judge Connerotte, the only man who has ever advanced the Dutroux investigation was sacked. He had attended a fund raising dinner for the families of missing children - this was seen as a conflict of interest.

A newly promoted investigating magistrate replaced him.

His first job would be Belgium's most controversial trial of the century. From that point on, according to the Russos, parents of one of Dutroux's victims, no new evidence against anyone was added to the Dutroux file.

The special team of police officers interviewing Regina Louf and the other "X" witnesses, as they were called, were the next to be sacked.

A new crew was assigned to "re-read" Regina's testimony. The press was told that the previous team had manipulated Regina's evidence to make her credible. It is a charge which the police team have always vigorously denied and which has never been substantiated.

Friends in high places

Two years ago a Belgian journalist revealed the close relationship between the investigating Judge - Van Espen and two of those accused by Regina Louf in the murder, she witnessed, of Christine Van Hees.

Yet, when Regina Louf accused Nihoul and his wife of the murder Judge Van Espen saw no conflict of interest, no reason to resign. Nor was he sacked, as Connerotte had been. Instead he ordered the police officers to stay out of the case.

Van Espen resigned as the Judge in charge of the investigation only after his relationship with Nihoul, one of the accused, was exposed.

The media campaign

Regina Louf's name was leaked to the press and the government-owned TV station RTBF began a campaign designed to prove that Dutroux was an "isolated pervert" kidnapping girls for himself, that there was no network, that Jean Michel Nihoul was innocent and Regina Louf was a liar.

Anne Thilly, Prosecutor General
The Prosecutor General declared Regina Louf 'mad'
Today in Belgium Regina Louf's reputation is destroyed. The Prosecutor General of Liege, Anne Thilly, declares she's completely mad despite numerous statements from independent psychologists to the contrary.

The Judges have announced she will not be called as a witness in any future trial of Dutroux or his associates. Her testimony has been declared worthless.

Belgium's failure to solve crimes

But the Belgians no longer seem to care.

They no longer demonstrate against the corruption and incompetence of their police, judiciary and political class.

They assume there's been a cover up and those with high-placed friends have been protected from prosecution.

Critics of the investigation, like the Russos, who believe there is evidence of a network, have been systematically blocked and ignored, not because they're disbelieved but because the Belgians are sick of it all.

This after all is a country renowned for its failure to solve crimes.

Read more:

Click here for full programme transcript

Belgium's X-Files:
an Olenka Frenkiel investigation
Sunday 5th May 2002 on BBC Two at 1915 BST

Reporter: Olenka Frenkiel
Producer: Michael Simkin
Series Producer: Simon Finch
Editor: Fiona Murch

  The X Files
The shocking horror is revealed
  The X Files
The conditions of Melissa's incarceration
  The X Files
The judge is sacked
  The X Files
Police files shown to be fundamentally flawed by investigative journalists
Belgium's X Files

Paedophile scandal

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