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Belgium's unforgiven Dutroux case

Belgium's unforgiven Dutroux case
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In August 1996, Marc Dutroux becomes known to all of Belgium, and will be loathed for his crimes, a cause of national trauma.

He is arrested with his wife Michelle Martin and accomplice Michel Lelièvre, as the police are searching for Laetitia Delhez, aged 14.

At the time of his arrest, Dutroux is on parole from prison, having served three years for the abduction and rape of five minors.

He has been under police surveillance for a year.

A search warrant leads them to his house in December 1995 in connection with a stolen car ring.

Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo are still alive in the basement but remain undiscovered.

The two eight-year-olds have been here since their abduction in June, in Grâce Hollogne.

In August 1995, 17- and 19-year-old An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks disappear near Ostende.

There was also 12-year-old Sabine Dardenne, in May 1996, near Tournai.

And in August 1996, 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez in Bertrix.

The police do not make a connection between these disappearances.

Then Dutroux reveals where he is keeping Laetitia and Sabine.

These are the only victims to live – raped, abused, drugged, but still alive.

Belgium has not yet learned the fates of Julie, Melissa, An and Eefje.

This infamous hiding place built by Dutroux is a cell just over two metres long, less than a metre wide and 1.64 high.

After eight months in here, Julie and Melissa are starved.

Their bodies and those of An and Eejfe – who have been buried while still alive – are found in two different gardens.

Belgium’s White March in October 1996 is in support of the families and against the failures of the people in the police and the justice system.

Some 300,000 marchers demand these be reformed.

There are allegations of a cover-up, of involvement in pedophilia right up to high-level politicians.

Adding to the anger, Dutroux manages to escape from custody in 1998, while he is allowed to check documents during a court appearance.

He is on the loose for three hours.

Belgium’s interior and justice ministers are forced to resign.

When finally Dutroux’s case is heard, starting in March 2004, seven years after his arrest, the Belgian media call it ‘the trial of the century’.

By June, the verdict: life for Dutroux; 25 years in prison for Lelièvre, and 30 years for Dutroux’s wife.

Michelle Martin let Julie and Melissa starve while her husband served four months in jail for the auto trafficking in 1996.