Magazine article Newsweek International

Justice Delayed in Belgium

Magazine article Newsweek International

Justice Delayed in Belgium

Article excerpt

No one knows when--or if--Marc Dutroux will ever stand trial for some of Europe's most notorious crimes against children. Five years have passed since police searched a house owned by the convicted car thief and child molester in Marcinelle, Belgium. Two abused and malnourished girls, 12 and 14, were rescued from a basement dungeon. At nearby houses, investigators found the corpses of four other kidnapped girls-- two teenagers and two 8-year-olds, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, who had apparently starved to death after eight months in captivity. Police confiscated hundreds of pornographic videos, many reportedly showing Dutroux abusing children. The suspect even led gendarmes to the spot where the 8-year-olds were buried.

Then the case fell apart. Essential files went missing. Investigators failed to review any of the videotapes until last year; by then some had vanished. A close examination of the dungeon turned up more than 4,000 human hairs. They sat in storage until late last year, when the prosecuting magistrate reluctantly ordered DNA tests. Some experts say a trial can't happen before 2004. One of the state's key witnesses, a woman who puts Dutroux at the scene of Julie and Melissa's kidnapping, is already 75 years old. The defendant's lawyer, Julienne Pierre, says: "A jury will have a hard time convicting Dutroux."

Victims' relatives say local authorities allowed the girls to die. "It's impossible there can be this many incompetent people in one place," says Jean-Denis Lejeune. His daughter, Julie, and her friend Melissa were still alive when police came to the Dutroux house looking for other missing youngsters. The searchers heard children screaming. Dutroux said the noise was just his own kids, and the cops bought the story. The 8-year-olds finally died while he was in jail on unrelated theft charges. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.