Thu, Mar 04, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Belgian child rapist blames accomplices

FIRST TESTIMONY Testifying at his rape-murder trial for the first time, Marc Dutroux yesterday denied that he had anything to do with the abduction of two 8-year-old girls

AFP , ARLON, BELGIUM

Paul Marchal and his wife Betty, parents of murdered daughter An, on Tuesday leave the Palace of Justice in a police car at the end of the second day of the Dutroux trial in Arlon, Belgium.

PHOTO: AP

Belgian pedophile Marc Dutroux yesterday blamed his wife and three accomplices for abducting two eight-year-old girls whose brutally abused bodies were found buried in his garden in August, 1996.

Testifying at his rape-murder trial for the first time, Dutroux denied he had anything to do with the kidnappings in June, 1995, of Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo.

He blamed instead three people standing trial alongside him -- his wife, Michelle Martin, a drug-addict friend, Michel Lelievre, and convicted fraudster Michel Nihoul -- plus a murdered accomplice, Bernard Weinstein.

Dutroux said that he stumbled upon the two girls in his home at Marcinelle, southern Belgium, in the company of the four people in July, 1995, some weeks after they were abducted from the eastern city of Liege.

He said he saw Weinstein sexually abusing one of the girls.

"I was angry," he told presiding judge Stephane Goux. But according to Dutroux, Weinstein told him: "This is nothing compared to what will happen to them when they end up with Nihoul and company."

Dutroux added: "My wife explained to me that it was better to hang on to them for a few days."

This explained, according to the convicted child rapist, why he built a secret cellar in the Marcinelle house, near the southern town of Charleroi, to confine the two girls.

Police rescued two girls, aged 12 and 14, from the cellar in August, 1996. They then unearthed the bodies of Julie, Melissa and two young women, 17 and 19 years old, from the gardens of other properties belonging to Dutroux.

Julie and Melissa had starved to death after being raped and beaten, autopsy reports showed.

Dutroux also claimed two policemen took part in the August, 1995 kidnapping of the two teens, An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks.

He said their abduction was carried out by himself, a drug-addict friend who is also on trial, and two other men.

"I later found out they were members of the police force," he told the court, without identifying them.

He said one of the officers and his heroin-addict accomplice, Michel Lelievre, had raped one of the young women after they were kidnapped while on holiday near the Belgian coastal town of Ostende.

Dutroux admitted himself raping Eefje.

But he again denied murdering the two young women, who according to autopsy reports were likely drugged unconscious and then buried alive.

He said he had left An and Eefje with Lelievre and Weinstein, whom Dutroux has admitted murdering.

The two accomplices planned to force the women into prostitution, according to Dutroux.

"I never thought that they were going to kill them," he told the court.

"I find it a great shame that these girls died. It's a disaster," he said.

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