Marc Dutroux (born November 6, 1956 in Brussels) is a Belgian serial killer and criminal, convicted of having kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused during 1995 and 1996 six girls, ranging in age from 8 to 19, four of whom he murdered. He was also convicted of having killed a suspected former accomplice, Bernard Weinstein. He was arrested in 1996 and has been in prison ever since. His widely publicised trial took place in 2004. A number of shortcomings in the Dutroux investigation caused widespread discontent in Belgium with the country's criminal justice system, and the ensuing scandal was one of the reasons for the reorganisation of Belgium's law enforcement agencies.
Before the kidnappings
Dutroux was the eldest of five children; his parents, both teachers, emigrated to the Belgian Congo and returned to Belgium in 1960. They separated in 1971 and Dutroux stayed with his mother. He worked briefly as a gigolo serving men. He married his first wife at the age of 19; they had two children. He divorced her in 1983. At this point, he already had an affair with Michelle Martin. The two would eventually have three children together; they married in 1989 while both were in prison. They divorced in 2003, again while in prison.
An unemployed electrician, Dutroux had a long criminal history involving car theft, muggings and drug dealing.
In February 1986, Dutroux and Martin were arrested for abducting and raping five young girls. In April 1989, he was sentenced to thirteen and a half years in prison; Martin received a sentence of five years. Showing good behaviour in prison, Dutroux was released on parole in April 1992, after having served slightly more than six years. Upon releasing him, the parole board received a warning letter written by his own mother to the prison director.
After his release, he was able to convince a psychiatrist that he was disabled, resulting in a government pension. He also received sleeping pills and sedatives from a doctor, which he would later use to quiet the abducted girls.
His criminal career, involving the trade of stolen cars to Czechoslovakia and Hungary, drug dealing and even violent crimes such as mugging, gained him sufficient income to live in relative luxury in Charleroi, a city that had at the time high unemployment. He came to own seven houses, most of them vacant, and he used three of them to torture the girls he kidnapped. In his house in Marcinelle near Charleroi (Hainaut), where he lived most of the time, he started to construct a concealed dungeon in the basement. Hidden behind a massive concrete door disguised as a shelf, the cell was 2.15 metres (7 ft) long, less than 1 metre (3 ft) wide and 1.64 metres (5 ft) high.
 Abductions and arrest
Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo (both age eight) were kidnapped together on June 24, 1995, probably by Dutroux, and imprisoned in Dutroux's cellar. Dutroux repeatedly sexually abused the girls and produced pornographic videos.
17-year-old An Marchal and 19-year-old Eefje Lambrecks were kidnapped on August 22, 1995 while on a camping trip in Ostend, probably by Dutroux and his accomplice Michel Lelièvre, who was being paid with drugs. Since the dungeon was already in use, Dutroux chained the girls to a bed in a room of his house. His wife was aware of all these activities. The prosecution alleged that Dutroux killed An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks several weeks later, but the exact circumstances of the murder are unknown.
In late 1995, Dutroux came under investigation for his involvement in stolen luxury cars. He was in custody from December 6, 1995 until March 20, 1996. It is likely that Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo starved to death during this time.
Sabine Dardenne was kidnapped and imprisoned in the dungeon on May 28, 1996 on her way to school, by Dutroux and Lelièvre. She was 12 at the time. On August 9, 1996, the two men kidnapped 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez when she was walking home at night from a public swimming pool. A police investigation found an eyewitness who could remember part of a license plate which matched Dutroux's. Dutroux, his wife Martin and Lelièvre were arrested on August 13, 1996. A search of his houses did not turn up anything. After two days, both Dutroux and Lelièvre confessed. Then Dutroux led investigators to the dungeon hidden in his basement. Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez were found alive there on August 15.
In an interview conducted several years later, Dardenne related that Dutroux told her that she was being kidnapped by a gang, that her parents did not want to pay, and that the gang therefore was planning to kill her. He let her write letters to her family, which he read but never posted.
On August 17, Dutroux led police to another of his houses, in Sars-la-Buissière (Hainaut). The bodies of Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo as well as Dutroux's supposed accomplice Bernard Weinstein were found in the garden. An autopsy found that the two girls died from starvation. Dutroux had crushed Weinstein's testicles until he revealed a money hiding place, then he drugged him and buried him alive. Dutroux told police that he had killed Weinstein because he had failed to feed the girls during Dutroux's time in custody. Finally, Dutroux told police where to find the bodies of An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks. They were located on September 3, 1996 in Jumet (Hainaut), buried under a shack next to a house owned by Dutroux. Weinstein had lived in that house for three years.
Several hundred legally obtained commercial pornographic videos depicting adults were found in Dutroux's houses, along with a sizeable amount of pornographic videos Dutroux had produced of his wife Michelle Martin.
Shortcomings of the investigation, public outcry
Authorities were criticised for various aspects of the case. Perhaps most notably, police searched Dutroux's house on December 13, 1995 and again six days later in relation to his car theft charge. During this time, Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo were still alive in the basement dungeon, but they were not found. Since the search was unrelated to kidnapping charges, police searching the house had no dogs or specialised equipment that may have discovered the girls' presence, and they failed to notice the significance of the freshly plastered and painted wall that concealed the dungeon, in an otherwise decrepit and dirty basement. While in the basement, officers heard children's cries, which they decided had come from the street outside.
Several incidents suggested that Dutroux's intentions were not properly followed-up. Dutroux had offered money to a police informer for providing girls, and told him that he was constructing a cell in his basement. His mother also wrote a second letter to police, claiming that he held girls captive in his houses.
There was widespread anger and frustration among Belgians due to police errors and the general slowness of the investigation. This anger culminated when the popular investigative judge in charge of the case was dismissed after having participated in a fund-raising dinner by the girls' parents. His dismissal resulted in a massive protest march (the "White March") of 300,000 people on the capital, Brussels, in October 1996, two months after Dutroux's arrest, in which demands were made for reforms of Belgium's police and justice system.
On the witness stand, Jean-Marc Connerotte, the original judge of the case, broke down in tears when he described "the bullet-proof vehicles and armed guards needed to protect him against the shadowy figures determined to stop the full truth coming out. Never before in Belgium has an investigating judge at the service of the king been subjected to such pressure. We were told by police that [murder] contracts had been taken out against the magistrates." Connerotte testified that the investigation was seriously hampered by protection of suspects by people in the government. "Rarely has so much energy been spent opposing an inquiry," he said. He believed that the Mafia had taken control of the case.
A 17-month investigation by a parliamentary commission into the Dutroux affair produced a report in February 1998, which concluded that while Dutroux did not have accomplices in high positions of police and justice system, as he continued to claim, he profited from corruption, sloppiness and incompetence.
Public indignation flared up again in April 1998. While being transferred to a court house without handcuffs, Dutroux overpowered one of his guards, took his gun and escaped. He was caught a few hours later. The Minister of Justice Stefaan De Clerck, the Minister of the Interior Johan Vande Lanotte, and the police chief resigned as a result. In 2000, Dutroux received a five-year sentence for threatening a police officer during his escape. In 2002, he received another five-year sentence for unrelated crimes.
Dutroux's trial began on March 1, 2004, some seven and a half years after his initial arrest. It was a trial by jury and up to 450 people were called upon to testify. The trial took place in Arlon, the capital of the Belgian province of Luxembourg, where investigations had started. Dutroux was tried for the murder of An Marchal, Eefje Lambrecks and Bernard Weinstein, a suspected accomplice. While admitting the abductions, he denied all three killings, although he had earlier confessed to killing Weinstein. Dutroux was also charged with a host of other crimes: auto theft, abduction, attempted murder and attempted abduction, molestation, and three unrelated rapes of women from Slovakia.
Martin was tried as an accomplice, as were Lelièvre and Nihoul. To protect the accused, they were made to sit in a glass cage during the trial. In the first week of the trial, photos of Dutroux's face were not allowed to be printed in Belgian newspapers, for privacy reasons. Throughout the trial, Dutroux continued to insist that he was part of a Europe-wide pedophile ring with accomplices among police officers, businessmen, doctors, and even high-level Belgian politicians.
In a rare move, the jury at the assize trial publicly protested the presiding judge Stéphane Goux's handling of the debates and the victims' testimonies.
On June 14, 2004, after three months of trial, the jury went into seclusion to reach their verdicts on Dutroux and the three other accused. Verdicts were returned on June 17 after three days of deliberation. Dutroux, Martin and Lelièvre were found guilty on all charges; the jury were unable to reach a verdict on Nihoul's role.
Nihoul was later acquitted from the charge of being an offender on kidnapping and murder of the girls by the court. The jury was asked to go back into seclusion to give answer to the question whether Nihoul was an accomplice or not.
On June 22, Dutroux received the maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while Martin received 30 years and Lelièvre 25 years. Although Nihoul was acquitted of kidnapping and conspiracy charges, he was convicted on drug-related charges and received five years.
The Dutroux case is so famous that more than a third of Belgians with the surname "Dutroux" applied to have their name changed between 1996 and 1998.
Allegations of satanic ritual abuse
The testimony of one witness alleged that satanic ceremonies were used to 'welcome' new victims in which the goal was to disorient the victims, doubt the reality of their memories and prevent them from disclosing the abuse.
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