Unemployed electrician Marc Dutroux was no stranger to the eyes of the law. With a long criminal history including drug dealing, robbery, and car theft, Dutroux was less of an electrician than he was a professional criminal. In and out of jail most of his life, it wouldn’t be long before this dangerous criminal with sociopathic tendencies discovered that there was big money to be made in child pornography.
Convicted in February of 1986, Dutroux was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the kidnapping and rape of five girls. His wife and accomplice, Michelle Martin, was also sentenced to five years in prison for her involvement in the kidnappings. Normally this is where the story would end, but prison didn’t deter or rehabilitate Dutroux, it only forced him to become more sophisticated.
In 1992, after serving just three years of his 13 year sentence, Dutroux was paroled. Even his own mother sent protest letters to the parole board, urging them to keep her son behind bars, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Convincing a psychiatrist that he was disabled, Dutroux would also obtain a prescription for a powerful sedative, which he used later to drug the young girls he kidnapped.
Within his own home, Dutroux began to construct a solid steel dungeon. Concealed behind a concrete wall housing several shelves and other miscellaneous items, this dungeon was practically undetectable. It is unknown if Dutroux utilized the dungeon during this time, but it would seem unfathomable that he would have gone through the effort of creating the structure and video taping the construction process, only to have it sit unused for several years.
In June of 1995, two eight-year-old girls named Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo were kidnapped by Dutroux and his accomplice, Bernard Weinstein. The girls were taken to Dutroux’s dungeon where they were beaten and repeatedly raped on video. Two more girls — An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks — were kidnapped almost two months after the other girls. Since his dungeon was in use, Dutroux instead chained the pair to a bed in one of his other houses. Like the two 8-year-olds, both Marchal and Lambrecks were drugged and raped repeatedly on video.
It’s not exactly known what happened between Dutroux, Marchal, and Lambrecks, but the girls were believed to have been drugged and buried alive several weeks after their kidnapping. Meanwhile, Dutroux was facing prison time for car theft charges, Dutroux left his wife in charge of feeding the other girls, still being held captive in his cellar dungeon. Rather than go into the cellar, Martin allowed the girls to starve to death.
A year later, Dutroux took the two emaciated bodies and buried them in the garden of one of his properties. For other mysterious reasons, Dutroux also murdered his former partner in crime, Bernard Weinstein, and buried him along side the two girls.
In May and August of 1996 Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez were kidnapped by Dutroux and his new accomplice, Michel Lelievre. Like the other girls, the two were beaten and raped repeatedly. Dutroux had told the girls that they were kidnapped in an attempt to receive ransom money, but their parents had refused to pay. His elaborate story went on to say that the people who ordered the ransom had given him instruction to execute the girls, but since he was such a kind person, he instead chose to protect them. Since he was doing them such a wonderful favor, they would be required to “return that favor.”
Dardenne kept a diary while she was being held captive. She would mark each day Dutroux had abused her – 1 slash for when he raped her, 2 slashes for when it hurt. She also regularly wrote letters home to her parents, pleading for them to help her, but of course Dutroux never sent them. It would seem that the girls would meet the same fate as the four girls before them.
Fortunately on the day Delhez was kidnapped on her way home from a local swimming pool, a witness saw Dutroux snatch the girl. The witness took down the license plate of the van Dutroux and Lelievre were seen driving and reported it to the police. Dutroux and his wife were taken into custody for questioning, but a search of their home turned up nothing. No girls, no bodies, and what would seem to be no evidence.
Dutroux and Martin would later admit that there were two girls being held in a DIY dungeon in their cellar. Both Delhez and Dardenne were found alive, but severely emaciated. On her way out of the door and into police custody, Dardenne cried tears of joy and thanked Dutroux, believing that he was the one that had informed the police and had saved the girls from a horrible fate. Then Dutroux led investigators to the bodies of the four other girls and Bernard Weinstein.
Meanwhile on the Belgian streets, protesters began to gather. The case was more than a black mark on the face of Belgium’s judicial system and police force. Back in 1995, when Dutroux was arrested for car theft, a search of his primary residence uncovered a number of video tapes. In addition to the tapes, police on the scene heard a girl crying, but could not determine the source. The tapes were locked away in evidence and no one thought twice about viewing them or investigating the mysterious cries heard within the home.
Perhaps the most clear cut piece of evidence against Dutroux were recordings dating back in 1992 of Dutroux offering a police informant money in exchange for girls. He gloated on how he was building a dungeon in his cellar and told the informant of his plans to keep girls there in order to make videos. His mother had also written letters to the police, telling them that Dutroux was keeping kidnapped children captive in his dungeon. These pieces of evidence would also go completely ignored.
Belgium’s Interior and Justice Ministers were forced to resign as a result of the protests and public scandal surrounding the Dutroux case.
Dutroux’s defense claims would be even wilder than police incompetency and the public outcry that resulted. Dutroux claimed that he was innocent cog within an elaborate child sex ring, spanning across countries and involving high-ranking individuals, politicians, and police officers. He claimed he was saving the girls from the savage child sex ring he had found himself inadvertently involved in and had no idea what pedophilia even was.
Although a lot of rumor and controversy surrounded Dutroux’s claims, none of them could be substantiated. He had no names or details involving the crimes. The only thing that was clear was that Dutroux kidnapped young girls, drugged them, held them prisoner in a makeshift dungeon, and left them with only brackish water in a rusty cup and small morsels of food to live on, then brutally raped them on tape for his own distorted fun and profit. He is now serving a life sentence in prison.