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10 Jun 2004 14:09
Marc Dutroux launched a final tirade on Thursday at his trial in Belgium for the rape, abduction and murder of several girls, denouncing “liars and manipulators” and insisting he did not act alone.
Giving his closing address before the jury retires to consider its verdict next week, Belgium’s “most hated man” reprised claims that he was the hapless fall guy for a shadowy gang of paedophiles.
“I don’t contest any of my real faults. I am here to be condemned,” he told the trial in the small town of Arlon, which in its 15 weeks of hearings has taken Belgium back to a series of gruesome crimes in the mid-1990s.
“But those who claim that everything was presented [in the trial] are liars and manipulators,” said Dutroux, who was released in 1992 after serving three years in jail for raping five girls.
The former electrician is on trial along with his ex-wife and two other men over the abduction and rape in the mid-1990s of six girls, two of whom were murdered and two others aged eight who starved to death.
Dutroux faces life in jail if convicted.
While he has confessed to some of the kidnappings and rapes, he denies murder.
Prosecutors say Dutroux was an “isolated pervert” who acted in collusion only with his three co-accused—his ex-wife, Michelle Martin, his “right-hand man”, Michel Lelievre, and convicted fraudster Michel Nihoul.
Dutroux used his final address to read from lengthy notes he took during the trial proceedings to once again point the finger at his co-accused, especially Nihoul, and unidentified other people.
He accused Nihoul of being the ringleader of a paedophile gang who “could really count on several networks of people who were more or less corruptible”.
“There were unknown people behind Nihoul,” Dutroux said, repeating claims that he himself only took part in the abductions to protect the girls from Nihoul’s alleged gang.
Dutroux admitted he was “responsible” for the deaths of two teenagers, An Marchal (17) and Eefje Lambrecks (19), who disappeared while on holiday on the Belgian coast in August 1995.
“But I’m not their rapist nor their killer,” he said.
Dutroux said he had left the girls with Lelievre and a French accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, whom Dutroux has admitted killing in an argument over money.
Weinstein’s body was discovered in August 1996 buried in the garden of one of Dutroux’s properties alongside the two eight-year-old girls, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, who had been missing for more than year.
The discovery came after Dutroux led police to a purpose-built dungeon where he had confined his victims.
Two girls, Sabine Dardenne (then aged 12) and Laetitia Delhez (then 14), were rescued. They went on to give testimony at the trial in April, recounting in sombre yet shocking detail the ordeal they suffered at Dutroux’s hands.
The eight-year-olds had starved to death after being repeatedly raped. Dutroux repeated his claim that Martin failed to feed them while he was serving a stint in jail for car theft.
“I am responsible for the deaths of Julie and Melissa, for abandoning them to the conscience of my wife,” he said, before addressing his ex-wife sitting two seats to his right in the defendants’ bullet-proof glass chamber.
“Michelle, I loved you like no other. Say what happened,” he said. “Of you, Nihoul, I ask nothing. But you will not make it to heaven.”—Sapa-AFP
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