Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marc Dutroux, A Pedophile and Child-Killer

After Seven Years, A Trial

It seems amazing that it has taken seven years to bring Dutroux to trial, with all the delays and postponements, but now it is scheduled to begin on March 1, 2004. Facing trial with Dutroux is his wife, Michele Martin, 45, businessman Jean-Michel Nihoul, 63. and Michel Lelievre. Not only are Dutroux and his three alleged accomplices on trial, but also the entire criminal justice system in Belgium.

Michele Martin
Michele Martin

Expatica.com wrote in January, 2004 that a survey published by a leading Belgian newspaper found that almost 60 percent of people living in Belgium have no faith in the criminal justice system.

William Langley of Telegraph News wrote: "If the stakes are high for the defendants, they are no lower for the Belgian government. For already the Dutroux case has exposed a scarcely believable degree of official incompetence and complacency... He (Dutroux) had been jailed for child rape in 1989, but under Belgium's ultra-liberal parole rules was freed after serving only three years of a 13-year sentence. An assessment made prior to his release stated that he was no longer a danger to the public."

Like most pedophiles, after his release, Dutroux went right back to his outrageous crimes. The police were given very specific tips, but there was no competent follow up, despite his criminal record.

The most glaring police failure occurred when they finally got around to searching Dutroux's house where two girls were being held prisoner and failed to find the girls that were in the house at that time.

Despite the biggest judicial investigation in the nation's history, almost no one in Belgium believes the full story of Dutroux's activities will ever be known, even after the trial. The trial is expected to last three months and some 600 witnesses are expected to be called. The Belgian justice minister believes that the trial may cost over 4.5 million Euros.

Jean-Michel Nihoul, in court
Jean-Michel Nihoul, in court

The Dutroux arrest revealed monumental levels of police bungling and saw public confidence in Belgium's law enforcement agencies plummet to an all-time low.

But according to prosecuting magistrate Damien Vandermeersch, far from improving the way they work, since 1996, Belgium's national and local police forces have actually gotten worse. Vandermeersch said that a series of recent police forms have left officers hamstrung by bureaucracy and drowning in a sea of paperwork.

Expatica sums it up this way: "The impression this case gives is that justice in Belgium is not so much blind as totally headless."

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