Belgian paedophile Dutroux guilty of rape and murder

 

BELGIUM: Belgian paedophile Marc Dutroux was found guilty yesterday of kidnapping and raping six girls and killing four of them in a trial that has gripped the country.

After three days of consideration, the jury found the man described by experts as a self-absorbed psychopath guilty on all counts for a series of crimes that shocked the country in 1996. Dutroux (47) faces life in prison.

The crimes, which included the death by starvation of two girls in a dungeon in the basement of Dutroux's house near the southern city of Charleroi, have haunted the country for years. Not only did they make Belgium synonymous with paedophilia in the world's eyes, they also put doubts in people's minds about the possible complicity of police and politicians.

Because of a bungled investigation, many Belgians came to believe Dutroux was protected by a child sex ring whose members included influential people.

In court, Dutroux played on this widely held belief, describing himself as a reluctant accomplice who supplied girls to a mysterious ring. Despite allusions to police helping kidnap girls and suggestions the ring had ties to a Satanic cult, Dutroux and his lawyers failed to produce evidence to support their claims.

The jury found the two other co-defendants, including Dutroux's ex-wife Michelle Martin, guilty of similar charges.The jury found businessman Michel Nihoul not guilty on charges of helping to kidnap Laetitia Delhez, one of the girls rescued from Dutroux's basement.

The jurors voted seven to five in favour of finding Nihoul guilty of conspiracy and kidnapping, but under Belgian law that margin is not wide enough. This forced the judges to add their votes and they sided with the minority, acquitting Nihoul.