Belgium’s biggest trial in living memory opens tomorrow, as a poll showed that almost nine in 10 of the nation’s citizens doubted that the truth would emerge about the rape, incarceration and murder of a string of young girls.
Marc Dutroux, who will appear with three co-defendants, is accused of kidnapping and raping six girls and killing four of them. Among the dead were two eight-year-olds who apparently starved while their captor served a jail sentence for another offence.
After almost eight years of investigations, the case is still controversial, with a host of theories circulating, some saying that highly placed people were involved.
The crimes came to light after Dutroux’s arrest in August 1996 when two victims were found cowering, naked, in a makeshift cell below one of his homes, near Charleroi.
A sceptical population is not convinced that the network of paedophiles was composed of just the four accused, who include Dutroux’s former wife, Michelle Martin, a drifter, Michel Lelièvre, and Michel Nihoul, a police informant.
Dutroux is expected to plead guilty on some counts but his lawyers may depict him as a member of a paedophile ring. He denies kidnapping the two eight-year-olds and murdering any girl.
The initial failure to track him down, despite his long record, fuelled theories that he had high-level protection. One cause of suspicion is the failure to analyse all samples, including from the main crime scene, Dutroux’s house at 128 route de Philippeville.
Jan Fermon, a lawyer for a survivor of the crimes, said the examination of forensic samples could lead to the detection of others involved.
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