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Conspiracy theories resurface at Belgian paedophile's trial

AFP / South Africa Star | March 2nd 2004

Arlon, Belgium – Alleged child killer Marc Dutroux has gone on trial, eight years after his arrest for a series of horrific crimes that convulsed Belgium and shocked the world.

Dutroux, a convicted child rapist, was arrested for the abduction, rape and murder of several girls.

An impassive Dutroux, speaking from behind bullet-proof glass, addressed the court yesterday only to confirm his name and that he was unemployed.

The trial of the 47-year-old former electrician, who has been in custody ever since his arrest in August 1996, is scheduled to last at least two months, with more than 450 witnesses scheduled to appear.

The 56-page charge sheet was due to be read today.

Dutroux, who is standing trial alongside three other people, including his estranged wife, is accused of abducting and raping six girls in 1995 and 1996.

Two of the girls, aged 12 and 14, survived their ordeal after being rescued from the cellar of a property belonging to Dutroux.

But the four other girls, including two 8-year-olds, were murdered. Their bodies were unearthed from gardens of other Dutroux properties. 

“The hour of truth?” the daily La Libre Belgique blared in a front-page dominated by a picture of Dutroux’s face. Only the coming weeks will tell.

But many doubt whether the trial will answer the questions still haunting Belgium. Opinion polls suggest the overwhelming majority believe Dutroux lay at the heart of a paedophile ring that encompassed politicians, judges and policemen.

In 1996, fury at police and government incompetence culminated in a series of marches in Belgium, which, at their height, drew about 320 000 people.

The crimes led to much soul-searching in Belgium and promises of co-operation by European governments to crack down on paedophiles – co-operation that has now stepped up in the Internet age.

Dutroux himself fuelled the conspiracy theories on the eve of his trial.

“People want to believe that I am at the centre of everything. They are mistaken,” he was quoted as saying by a Belgian television station.

“I did things of which I was not the driving force. I was used as an instrument by others, who were themselves used as instruments by others.”
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