A convicted child molester, Marc Dutroux reportedly led a gang of child kidnappers who abducted young girls, used them in pornographic films, raped them and held them as sex slaves, their horrific activities protected by policemen.
In August 1995, two girls, one 12 and one 14, were freed from an underground dungeon in one of Dutroux’s homes in Charleroi. Four bodies of other young girls were dug up on Dutroux’s property.
Arrested, Dutroux was charged with kidnapping, rape and murder. It was thought that he and gang members had abducted and used as sex slaves and child prostitutes more than thirteen other missing Belgian girls before murdering them. Dutroux allegedly offered to pay kidnappers $5,000 for each young girl brought to him and his henchmen.
The arrest of Dutroux was followed by the arrests of several Belgian police officers who had reportedly protected Dutroux’s operation, sharing in his high-end returns from child prostitution and pornography.
Dutroux had been sentenced in 1989 to thirteen years in prison for kidnapping, torturing and raping children, but had served only three years of his sentence, being released early, it was claimed, through bribery of corrupt politicians, lawmen, and court officials.
Dutroux, a clever, cunning criminal, had convinced officials that he had been rehabilitated by his imprisonment and was released in 1991.
Though under constant suspicion in the disappearances of many young girls, Dutroux was simply picked up and routinely questioned, then released to go about his child prostitution business.
At the same time, incredibly, he collected $ 1,200 in public assistance. A court of inquiry later rejected the accusations that police directly aided Dutroux in his illegal activities, saying that the police were simply inept.
In 1993, police officials received a report that Dutroux was constructing underground makeshift cells in one of his houses, where he planned to hold kidnapped children before they were shipped overseas into child sex slavery, particularly to the Orient, where the children would be reportedly filmed while being raped and then murdered on camera in so-called “snuff” movies, which were purchased by perverted high-ranking government officials and business leaders, these voyeurs paying between $20,000 and $40,000 each for such films.
Further, Dutroux, who became Belgium’s most notorious criminal, was linked with high officials, who had been accused of committing similar crimes. In November 1996, prosecutors petitioned the Belgium Parliament to lift the official immunity of 45-year-old Elio Di Rupo, Belgium’s deputy prime minister, so he could be charged with having illegal sex with underage boys. Similar charges were made at that time against 64-year-old Jean-Pierre Grafe, a regional minister.
Most disturbing at the same time were revelations of a vast network of child pornography controlled by Marc Dutroux. When the public discovered that Dutroux, a sex offender of long standing, had been released early from prison against the advice of prosecutors and that he had effected his release due to payoffs to corrupt police officials, the outcry in Belgium was deafening.
More than 300,000 irate citizens marched through the streets of Brussels on October 20, 1996, demanding that the government corruption be stopped.
Most of all, the public was incensed that more than a dozen children were missing, presumably kidnapped, raped and murdered by Dutroux and possibly others, and that officials seemed indifferent to the fate of these hapless children.
Meanwhile, Dutroux claimed that his two accomplices, Bernard Weinstein, a businessman and politician, and Michel Lelievre, a drifter who stayed in one of Dutroux’s houses, had actually carried out the kidnappings of Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo in August 1995, at a time when police actually searched the house on August 24, 1995 in which the girls were held captive silenced by being drugged in their underground chamber.
Dutroux allegedly claimed that he had paid Weinstein and Lelievre $1,600 for each girl they kidnapped for him.
Michelle Martin, Dutroux’s wife and the mother of three children, was later implicated in the kidnapping and pornographic operations of her husband.
Even though two kidnapped girls were held in the underground cell of one of the Dutroux houses when Dutroux was imprisoned, the kidnapper’s wife knew of their presence and did nothing to affect their release.
Dutroux, his wife and Lelievre were arrested on August 13, 1996. A short time later Dutroux began to talk about his crimes, telling police to go to one of his houses where they found two dead girls, Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune, as well as Dutroux’s former accomplice, Weinstein.
Dutroux blamed Weinstein for allowing the two girls to die of starvation and in retaliation, he said, he gave Weinstein barbiturates and, while his accomplice was in a drugged state, buried him alive next to the bodies of the two girls.
Dutroux then told police where they could find two other girls, Laetitia Delheze and Sabine Dardenne, who were being held prisoner in one of his houses. Officials found the girls alive.
Police began digging up the basements and gardens of all of Dutroux’s houses. Under the floor of a shack in a garden behind one house they found the bodies of 17-year-old An Marchal and 19-year-old Eefje Lambrecks.
Dutroux admitted to raping and killing both of these girls. Dutroux later recanted his confessions, insisted that he was innocent of all the crimes attributed to him and mounted a spirited defence, although his lawyers found him impossible to work with, one of these, Daniel Kahn, withdrawing from the case in July 2003.
At the time, Dutroux was positioned as a lone predator and that there was no secret network of wealthy sponsors financing his kidnapping and forced sex operations, a contention disbelieved by most Belgians, as well as attorney Kahn.
Enforcing this belief was the fact that Dutroux’s trial, and that of his wife and Lelievre, has been repeatedly and inexplicably postponed, the new trial date expected sometime in 2004.