In comments cited by a number of press reports, Dutroux also accused his co-defendants in the trial, including his estranged wife Michelle Martin, said media reports.


"People want to believe that I am at the centre of everything. They are mistaken," he said, according to comments originally reported by Flemish-language television station VTM.


"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," he added.


Wider ring


The comments echo claims by Dutroux's lawyers that the former electrician - accused over the 1996 abductions and rape of six schoolgirls, four of whom died - was part of a wider paedophile ring.


Nihoul (C) claims Dutroux was
the linchpin

Dutroux is standing trial alongside his wife Michelle Martin, 44, his "right-hand man" Michel Lelievre, 32, and a fourth suspect, Michel Nihoul, who all face charges of kidnapping and complicity in the crimes.


Nihoul has claimed Dutroux is the "linchpin" of the killings. But Dutroux blasted back: "(You are asking me) whether Nihoul is implicated in the abductions? Obviously. He is the linchpin."


"Martin, Lelievre, Nihoul are all accused of acts much less serious than those which they really committed," he added.




Two of the murdered girls were eight years old when they were starved to death in makeshift dungeons under one of Dutroux's houses. He also faces charges of abducting two girls who survived.


"I did things of which I was not the driving force"

Marc Dutroux,
paedophile suspect

Security was tight in the southeastern town of Arlon, near where the final crimes were committed in 1996, before the selection of the jury on Monday. Dutroux, 47, is not expected to take the stand until Wednesday.


The former electrician is expected to plead guilty on some counts, but his lawyers plan to depict him as merely a part of a wider paedophile ring. Prosecutors say they have no such evidence.


Dutroux has been in custody since his arrest in August 1996, when he led police to a house in the city of Charleroi, where his last captives - 12-year-old Sabine Dardenne and 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez - were found alive in the basement cells.


The Dutroux case has provoked a wave of public outrage and contributed to the defeat of former Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene's government in a 1999 general election.