Kidnap victims reject paedophile's apologies

Marc Dutroux, a paedophile on trial for rape and murder in a case that has horrified Belgium, apologised today to the two victims rescued alive from his basement cell eight years ago.

Marc Dutroux, a paedophile on trial for rape and murder in a case that has horrified Belgium, apologised today to the two victims rescued alive from his basement cell eight years ago.

“I realise the wrong that I have done, I offer my apologies,” Dutroux said after listening to his victims’ testimony.

Both Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez, 12 and 14 at the time, flatly refused to accept his courtroom comments.

“His regrets, he can keep them,” said Delhez afterward. ”The evil is done. It is too late,” she said.

They showed equal scorn to co-defendant Michelle Martin – Dutroux’s wife at the time of the abuse and murder spree in 1996 – who asked for forgiveness for not going to their aid.

Dutroux made the appeal after both victims testified in the southern town of Arlon how he had kidnapped, drugged and raped them during their captivity in his home in southern Belgium. Four other girls, aged between eight and 19, died.

The apologies came at the end of a tumultuous day in the seven-week trial when Dardenne pleaded for Dutroux to be silenced after he implied he had kidnapped Delhez to find her a friend to keep her company in his cell.

“Is it not possible to silence this man?” she asked.

She was also angered when Dutroux claimed he had protected her from a paedophile network which had killed other girls.

“So, if I understand you, I should be thankful?” she said.

Delhez refused to testify under oath which in Belgian courts requires witnesses to speak without “hatred or fear.”

After listening to testimony highlighting the rape and abuse, Martin told Delhez, “I want to express my regrets.” Delhez, like Dardenne, rejected it.

Dardenne, now 20, was kidnapped and sexually abused for 80 days before she was rescued from a secret cell in Dutroux’s basement two days after he was arrested along with Martin and another defendant in August 1996.

Delhez, now 22, was rescued from the cellar along with Dardenne only a week after she was kidnapped.

Defence lawyer Ronny Baudewyn said he often was just as outraged as the victims from what he heard from Dutroux.

“You cannot imagine how angry I am sometimes,” he told state radio. “And I assure you that I let him know it.

“It is very difficult to have respect for someone who did what he did, if only for the facts that he has admitted,” he said.

Apart from Delhez and Dardenne, 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 car theft and his wife neglected to feed them.

Two others – Eefje Lambrecks, 19, and An Marchal, 17 – were also killed in 1996. Their bodies were unearthed from a Dutroux backyard.

Dutroux, a convicted paedophile, was on parole at the time of the abductions in 1995 and 1996, has admitted kidnapping and abusing girls, but claims he was working for a criminal network recruiting prostitutes across Europe. The investigating judge has rejected the assertion.

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