On August 13, 1996, Marc Dutroux, a 39-year-old pederast and unemployed electrician, was arrested after he "delivered" to authorities two near-starved girls, who where held captive in a concrete dungeon hidden underneath his home in the Belgian village of Sars-la-Buissiäre.
Police stumbled on Dutroux's trail when a passer-by noted the number of his van as he snatched Laetitia Delheze, a 14-year-old girl, as she walked back from a swimming pool on August 9. The number was traced back to Dutroux and his home near Charleroi where they found Laetitia and Sabine Dardeene, 12, who had been missing for about three months. Both girls were drugged and sexually abused.
Four days later the police discovered the remains of two eight-year-old girls -- Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo -- buried in the back yard of his house. The two girls died of starvation when Dutroux was arrested and incarcerated for an unrelated violation. According to Dutroux, Bernard Weinstein, an associate who was also found buried under the tile patio garden, failed to feed the trapped girl.
Upon his release, Dutroux -- not the reasoning type -- killed Weinstein in a fit of anger after he found the girls dead. Later Dutroux's, Michele Martin, told police that she was supposed to feed and look after the girls while her husband was in prison, but was too terrified to enter their cell.
And so one of the most horrifying episodes in Belgian history unfolded with gruesome regularity. By September 3rd two more bodies -- An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambreks, 19, who were abducted in 1995 while on holiday in Ostend -- were discovered in his home in Jumet, one of six properties owned by the unemployed electrician. For the rest of 1996 Dutroux, an exceptionally cold and calculating control-freak, confessed to six more murders and manipulated authorities into digging up half of Belgium -- and even borrowing a ground radar from Scotland Yard that was used to search for bodies in Fred and Rosemary West's infamous "House of Horrors" --in a vain attempt at unearthing more bodies.
As the horror-show continued, Dutroux emerged as the kingpin of an international child-prostitution ring that he ran with his wife and five associates from six houses around the Charleroi region in Southern Belgium. Two police officers have been charged with helping Dutroux and his accomplices in their car-theft and drug-pushing rings. The Interpol has been investigating the activities of the paedophile ring in connection to disappearances in neighboring European nations.
Waves of deep outraged swept through the Belgium when leaked police documents were published showing that the police had been receiving tip-offs from an informer since 1993, warning that Dutroux was "building cells" to hold kidnapped children. In 1996 the police made two visits to the house where the two girls were held captive and said they believed Dutroux when he said the voices they heard were those of his own children.
Adding insult to civic injury, the Belgian Government launched an inquiry into the failure of authorities to act on complaints about the activities of "Short-eyes" Dutroux, who was released from jail in 1992 after serving three years of a 13-year sentence for raping and abducting five girls. Even King Albert II of Belgium entered the controversy, expressing his shock over the shortcomings of the national judicial system that freed such a dangerous individual.
The horrors of Dutroux's unchecked criminality have devastated Belgium's socio-political framework. Many civic and political figures have been linked with the pederast's child-pornography, drug-dealing and car-theft rings. Authorities have been accused of bungling and interfering with the case. Some suspect that the wily paedophile enjoyed high-level protection by procuring young children to high ranking public officials. The very foundations of this placid European nation have been cracked by this unfolding and far reaching scandal.
Most Belgians believe that Dutroux escaped arrest for so long because he had links with police and magistrates in a nationwide child sex and petty crime ring. On one occasion, while he was holding two eight-year-olds in a cell under his house, police officers searching for missing girls heard children whimpering nearby. Despite knowing that Dutroux was a convicted pedophile they accepted his explanation that they were his own children.
To date five bodies have been uncovered -- four young girls and a man -- and Dutroux is suspected of 12 other deaths, including a young girl who disappeared in Slovenia. On February 2, 1997 Dutroux was charged with the murder of the two teenagers who where found in his property in Jumet.