Victims of alleged child killer to visit dungeon

Two young women who are the only surviving victims of alleged Belgian child killer Marc Dutroux are to relive on Tuesday the nightmare they endured at his hands when they visit the house where he held them captive and raped them as children.

Sabine Dardenne, now aged 20, and Laetitia Delhez (22) will travel to Marcinelle, a suburb of the southern Belgian city of Charleroi, where Dutroux held them in the basement of a house he owned there.

Dardenne was raped repeatedly while held for 80 days in 1996, when she was 12. Delhez, aged 14 at the time, was held captive for six days in the same basement cell as Dardenne.

Both girls were rescued when Dutroux led police to the house following his arrest in 1996.

Apart from the two girls, also present at the house on Tuesday will be jurors and court officials who will be escorted under tight security from the southeastern town of Arlon, where Dutroux and three others are on trial over the abductions and rapes of six young girls and the murders of two of them.

Jurors and civil parties in the case had asked to visit the house in Marcinelle.

The father of Julie Lejeune and the parents of An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, three of the four young girls who died while incarcerated by Dutroux, have also said they will be there.

Authorities said that 10 members of the public and 30 handpicked journalists will be allowed to attend.

Dutroux, his ex-wife, Michelle Martin, and co-defendant Michel Lelievre will be taken to Marcinelle in police vans while former businessman and alleged accomplice Michel Nihoul, who is free on bail, will be represented by his attorneys.

A total of 225 police officers are to be stationed around the house in Marcinelle and the surrounding area will only be accessible to residents.

Authorities said that the 110 or so people expected to attend will first appear at the courtroom in Arlon before travelling on buses to Dutroux’s house.

Chairs will be placed in front of the house in such a way as to resemble the layout of the courtroom in Arlon and four people at a time wearing helmets will be allowed into the house to visit the dungeon where Dutroux held his victims captive.

According to witnesses who have testified at the trial, the dungeon hidden inside a disused water tank below the house was 1,6m high, 1m wide and 2,15m long. It had nearly no ventilation and was devoid of natural light.

Two of Dutroux’s victims, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, both aged eight, were left to starve to death inside the space in 1995, when Dutroux was being held in prison on charges of car theft.

Dardenne and Delhez were also rescued from the prison on August 15 1996 after Dutroux led police to the house.

The door to the dungeon was hidden behind a shelf and police had visited the house on several occasions when the girls were being held inside but failed to find them.

Dutroux, who was found guilty in 1989 over a string of child abductions and rapes in the mid-1980s, faces life imprisonment if convicted in this case.
He has admitted rape and kidnapping but denies the charges of murder.—Sapa-AFP

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