Even after all these years, the mere mention of the name “Marc Dutroux” can wipe the smile off the face of almost any Belgian.
And now that the convicted paedophile and killer’s ex-wife, who let two of his victims starve to death, is on the verge of release, Belgium is being forced to relive some of its darkest moments.
Today, the nation’s highest court is likely to approve granting Michelle Martin conditional freedom, even though she served little more than half of the 30-year sentence she was given for her part in the mid-1990s kidnappings, rapes and killings. One of Belgium’s most loathed criminals could walk free within hours or days afterward.
Martin depicted herself as a more passive culprit than Dutroux, acting on the whims of a psychopath. But she is still blamed for aiding her then-husband’s depraved and murderous spree, and is loathed for letting two 8-year-old girls starve to death while Dutroux was briefly imprisoned.
The Court of Cassation will decide on appeals from the prosecutor’s office and the families of victims today and rule if procedural errors were made in the decision of a lower court to approve Martin’s conditional release. Barring such errors, nothing stops her from leaving prison.
Dutroux, who was an unemployed electrician and convicted paedophile on parole at the time of the crimes, was convicted eight years after his 1996 arrest of abducting, imprisoning and raping six girls between the summers of 1995 and 1996. He was also found guilty of murdering two of the six girls, who ranged in age from 8 to 19 years old.
The two 8-year-olds starved to death in a secret basement dungeon built by Dutroux, who left them in Martin’s care while he was serving four months in jail for theft. The last two kidnap victims came out alive after the police took action.
Under Belgian law, release is possible after a convict has served one-third of his or her sentence, including credit for pre-trial detention. Dutroux was sentenced in 2004 to life in prison with no possibility of parole because, the judge said, of “the danger he represents to society.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved