'Most hated' Belgian in jail for life

Marc Dutroux, Belgium's most reviled man, has been sentenced to life in prison on for kidnapping, raping and killing girls in a series of crimes that stunned the country nearly eight years ago.

    Dutroux was found guilty of kidnapping and raping six girls

    After more than an hour of deliberation, the court on Tuesday also sentenced co-defendant Michelle Martin, Dutroux's ex-wife, to 30 years in prison; heroin addict Michel Lelievre to 25 years, and businessman Michel Nihoul to five years.

       

    "Marc Dutroux, you have been condemned to the maximum sentence," Judge Stephane Goux told the country's most hated criminal after reading out the sentences in this eastern Belgian town.

       

    "I believe that you still come out of it better than most of the victims who are no longer among the living."

       

    Last week, Dutroux, 47, was found guilty of kidnapping and raping six girls, killing two of them and causing the death of two others.

     

    Role

       

    Martin and Lelievre were found guilty of playing a role in the girls' kidnapping and deaths.

       

    Although Nihoul was acquitted of conspiracy and kidnapping, he was found guilty of drug trafficking and other crimes.

     

    "I believe that you still come out of it better than most of the victims who are no longer among the living"

    Stephane Goux,
    judge

    In his final remarks to the court before the judge and jury went into deliberations over the sentencing, Dutroux upheld his version of events.

       

    "For the record, I want to say that I didn't rape Julie and Melissa and I will continue to search for the truth about An, Eefje and Weinstein," he said. "How can I remain silent after the media completely ignored my right to presumed innocence?"

       

    Both aged eight years, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo were the youngest of Dutroux's victims, dying of starvation in a dungeon built in the basement of his house in a derelict suburb of the southern city of Charleroi.

       

    The bodies of An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks were dug up in the backyard of a house after his arrest. The girls had been drugged, gagged, and buried alive.

       

    The body of Dutroux's suspected accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, was dug up in the backyard of another house.

     

    The sentencing brings to a close a case that has haunted Belgians since Dutroux's arrest in 1996.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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