Child murder confessions revive Belgium's worst nightmare

HOT on the heels of a paedophile murder trial that revived ugly memories for Belgium, a French forestry worker has confessed to the murder of six girls over a 14-year period and has been accused of killing several other people.

Prosecutor Anne Thily said Michel Fourniret, who has been in detention since June 2003 for abduction of minors and sexual misconduct, confessed to "six murders of girls" in Belgium and France between 1987 and 2001.

Among the victims was Elisabeth Brichet, a Belgian girl who was 12 when she was kidnapped near Namur, southern Belgium, in December 1989.

The 62-year-old Frenchman confessed to kidnapping, trying to rape and finally strangling Elisabeth, Ms Thily said.

The girl's mother was a founder of the so-called White Movement, launched by the parents of disappeared Belgian children after the arrest of sex killer Marc Dutroux in 1996.

The prosecutor said Fourniret's wife, who was arrested yesterday, also accused him of killing an adult and two other girls missing in eastern France. Fourniret has denied any role in the disappearance of those two girls.

The latest case has caused new anguish following the shocking details that emerged from Dutroux's trial for abducting, raping and murdering girls. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on June 22.

Belgian police arrested Fourniret one year ago after he allegedly kidnapped a 13-year-old Congolese girl who managed to escape.

Yesterday, local media reported that Fourniret's wife had accused him of murdering at least nine young girls in France and Britain.

The wife, Monique Olivier, was arrested on a charge of failing to come to the assistance of persons in danger. She was remanded in custody in the southern Belgian town of Namur.

Belgian authorities declined to comment on any confessions Fourniret may have made about murders committed in France.

Elisabeth Brichet's father, Francis Brichet, said investigators had told him that his daughter had been kidnapped, raped, killed and immediately buried.

The White Movement, in which her mother Marie-Noelle Bouzet played a leading role, organised protests against alleged police and judicial incompetence, and staged a huge march through Brussels.

Belgian newspapers asked why police, the judiciary, social workers and others had failed to prevent Dutroux abducting six girls, four of whom died, and the newspaper Le Soir suggested that "other Dutroux" were perhaps at large.

However, Fourniret has reportedly denied murdering Celine Saison, 18, and Manyana Thumpong, 13, who went missing in France in 2000 and 2001 and whose bodies were found close to Fourniret's home.

Fourniret received a seven-year sentence in 1987 from a French court for rape and indecent assault on minors.

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