After eight years, a victim who survived 80 days before being rescued from a cellar dungeon today came face to face for with the man accused of kidnapping her.
Sabine Dardenne, now 20, is a key witness at the Belgian trial of child rapist Mark Dutroux who is accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing six girls, four of whom died.
“Why did you not kill me?” Dardenne said at the end of her evidence in the Arlon court. Dutroux answered he never considered it. He did admit abusing her and said “I bear the full responsibility for that.”
Dardenne was rescued along with another victim, Laetitia Delhez, from the secret cellar two days after Dutroux, his wife and a third defendant were arrested in August 1996.
Delhez, now 22, was kidnapped just a week before being freed and will testify tomorrow.
Two eight-year-old victims – Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo – are thought to have starved to death in Dutroux’s basement in 1996 while he was in jail for four months for car theft and his wife neglected to feed the girls.
Two others – Eefje Lambrecks, 19, and An Marchal, 17 – were also killed in 1996. Their bodies were unearthed from the Dutroux’s back garden.
Dutroux, a convicted paedophile on parole at the time of the abductions in 1995 and 1996, has admitted kidnapping girls, but claims he was working for a criminal network recruiting prostitutes across Europe.
The investigating judge has cast doubt on the assertion.
Because of the horror of the crimes, the trial has been front page news around Europe. Dozens of people lined up from dawn to attend the session today as the seventh week of the trial began.
Parents of two kidnapped girls were overcome with emotion as Sabine testified and were taken to hospital for observation. Their condition was not considered serious.
Lawyers lauded Sabine’s courage during the one hour of testimony.
“She was a bit timid at first we have to thank court president Stephane Goux for questioning her like a good father would question his daughter,” said Dardenne’s lawyer Jean-Philippe Riviere.
“I was happy to see she turned around in her chair to look Dutroux in the face and ask him for explanation.”
Laetitia Delhez’s lawyer Jan Fermon said his client will be just as tough on Tuesday. “Two girls who survived hell and live to tell the story shows great courage,” he said.
Pol Marchal, An’s father, was so shaken by Dardenne’s testimony that he almost collapsed and had to be taken out on a stretcher and to hospital for observation.
“He doesn’t feel right and we will do some tests,” said his wife Betty. The mother of Delhez was also taken out of the courtroom, overcome by emotion.