When rumors of corruption among the highest levels of government began circulating in 2016, the term Pizzagate came to represent the idea of organized child exploitation, torture and murder in America. What many didn’t know then and now, is that “Pizzagate” is far from the only similar story. One of the most harrowing of such tales is that of Marc Dutroux, known as the Beast of Belgium and the cover-up and corruption that led Belgium to the brink of revolution in 1996.
In the wake of the eventual trial, 29 high profile businessmen, local police and members of the state police apparatus, the Gendarmarie, were arrested. 30 witnesses died under mysterious circumstances before being able to testify. DNA tests and hair samples disappeared and other evidence was ignored or destroyed in order to pin the idea that Marc Dutroux, the so-called Beast of Belgium, was the sole monster responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of several girls.
One victim, An’s father Paul Marchal, said he doesn’t think people will ever forget Dutroux, but fears that people will forget that others were involved in the case. Dutroux’s wife, Michelle Martin was an accomplice in Marc’s original rash of kidnappings and rapes in the 1980’s and also helped with body disposal, driving the van around while Marc was procuring young girls for his basement dungeon and even purchased the cameras and filmed the rapes of the kidnapped girls in the dungeon below Marc’s houses. Michelle Martin, by the way, was an elementary school teacher herself.
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Dutroux, apparently unemployed, somehow had the money for multiple properties, extensive renovation and construction and was able to rent or purchase elaborate digging equipment that should have been impossible on his government pension for disability. The girls, by the way, were often drugged with sedatives and sleeping pills that the psychiatrist who had ruled he was disabled had prescribed him. In addition, it is quite obvious that many involved in supposedly investigating the growing number of disappearances were obviously involved in some way as they acted to shield Dutroux from prosecution for as long as possible.
Driving around in a white van to kidnap young girls straight off the street then chaining them in literal rape dungeons on his various properties, drugging, raping and sometimes burying them alive, is horrific in itself. When you consider the implications of how much cover-up was involved, how protected Dutroux was and the likelihood that he and his wife did not act alone is even more bloodcurdling.
Dutroux’s first run-ins with the law involved some petty thefts, muggings and drug dealings as well as stealing cars in 1979. It is supposedly the money he made at this time that allowed him to purchase so many properties and the equipment needed to build the extensive underground network of tunnels and cells on various of his properties.
In 1989 when he was arrested for the rape and kidnapping of five women years earlier, he and his wife were convicted and imprisoned for a time. Dutroux was given a 13 ½ year sentence. His wife, Michelle Martin, was sentenced to four years. Both were freed far earlier, however. Dutroux himself would only serve three years of his sentence. It was Martin who hatched the plan to escape notice by building underground cells to house the girls in the future.
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UK’s the Telegraph reported that Martin’s plan was to create a literal underground city in a mine shaft where the girls could be housed. Dutroux claimed he wanted the underground city to actually be a safe place for the girls so they could be protected from the pedophile ring that had him in their service.
In 1992, Dutroux was let out over 10 years early “for good behavior.” At least five murders we know of and the rape, abduction and torture of several others took place in the intervening years. It was just three years after his release that Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo were kidnapped. The girls were held in a tiny cell in the series of dungeons in one of the seven properties fitted for this purpose. The cells were barely 3 feet wide and hidden by shelves in the wall. The girls were restrained by chains around their neck and barely given enough food and water to keep them alive. The girls were, at other times, unchained so he could violently rape them. Often at these times Michelle would film the results. Other times she was said to even take part.
Dutroux told the girls they could write letters home. He would read these letters himself, but obviously they were never delivered. He also allowed them to keep a diary. One of his 12-year-old victims wrote of each day she was raped. If the rape was painful she signified this with an X. Especially painful rapes were signified with two Xs.
It is shocking to think of how the police easily could have stopped this nightmare before the deaths of Julie and Melissa, before the kidnapping, rape and torture of other girls. Julie and Melissa were only 8-years-old at the time of their abduction. Police received information from four informants who claimed that Marc Dutroux had asked them to accompany him to kidnap young girls to sell them for sex trafficking purposes.
June 24, 1995, the first two kidnappings resulted in an appeal from the parents on television. Shortly after that, however, the story seemed to fade away. No longer was it mentioned in the news and the police seemed disinterested in further investigation. Family of the victims hired a local detective who, in turn, hired a criminal profiler. This profiler, Carine Hutsabeut, put together information that should have led to Dutroux being called in for questioning, but of course, that was not the case here.
Shortly after the disappearances of the two 8-year-old children, two teenage girls also went missing. They were last seen alive on stage being hypnotized as they were filmed by someone in the audience. Surveillance video shows them leaving the area for a tram. That was the last family or friends ever saw them alive.
Three weeks after this, in another strange turn of events, a woman writes the police saying she had seen two girls being held who match the description. The woman explains that they are being held by her own son. The woman is the mother of Marc Dutroux. For whatever reasons, despite numerous informants and Marc’s own mother saying he should be investigated further in these crimes, police do absolutely nothing. All this time more girls were disappearing that Summer of 1995.
Claude Thirault, one of the informants spoke of how Dutroux had driven him around and pointed out young girls who would “sell well” to a prostitute network he knew of as he suggested kidnapping girls. Thirault went immediately to the Gendarmes to inform them. This was 1992.
Supposedly some distrust and competition between local police and Gendarme is part of the reason why nothing moved forward any sooner. The Gendarme apparently had a confidential file with information related to Marc Dutroux as a suspect.
Once again, it was Claude Thirault who informed the Gendarmes that Dutroux was preparing the underground cells. He was “renovating his basement” he told officials. Once again, if he was not involved in trafficking girls and/or drugs it seems difficult to fathom how he could afford all the equipment, construction and extensive “renovations.”
Both local and state police have been informed that Dutroux is likely involved or responsible as they have been asked directly by him to kidnap girls. Why did Dutroux feel so confident? Did he know how protected he obviously was? The guardian of the Gendarmes “confidential file” on Dutroux, Reny Michaud, organized a sort of secret surveillance of Dutroux and his properties. It was known by the codename Operation Othello. Michaud’s men watched Dutroux for about five months. During this time the kidnappings did not cease. On December 6 Dutroux was arrested for car theft and placed in custody.
The Gendarmes feared police would search his house. “Don’t send a police commissioner, send me, I know Dutroux and have had him under surveillance for some time,” Michaud was reported to have implored. They did so. During the search of the house Michaud and a locksmith found videotaped evidence of rape of young girls. Also found was a videotape of the parents imploring for their children’s return. Michaud put “a symbol” of some sort on certain of the types which supposedly signified they were of no importance to the tape. Some of the material on these tapes involved Marc constructing a ventilation system in his underground dungeon, raping a young girl in Czechoslavakia, a group of naked young Gypsy girls in Romania.
While Michaud and the locksmith made their way into the cellar where Julie and Melissa were being held they found chains, vaginal cream, a gynecological speculum, Dutroux’s prescription sedatives and sleeping pills. The locksmith testified that he heard children’s voices. Michaud shouts, “Silence!” There is no more whispering at this point. The locksmith, when questioned by authorities, said he begged Michaud not to leave that he had heard children whispering and that they shouldn’t leave when there were obviously voices in the cellar. Michaud reportedly replied, “Who is the Gendarmerie official here?”
At this time, Michaud calls off Operation Othello. Michaud reported they had found nothing and that Dutroux was no longer a suspect or person of interest. Dutroux was freed a few months later and at this time is free also of suspicion of culpability in the brutal crimes he played a part in.
In the four months that Dutroux is incarcerated his wife comes to the home to feed the German Shepherds but claims she was too “frightened” to go down to the cellar and feed the girls but that she did drop bags of food. Apparently, the food was just out of reach for the chained girls. This is one theory of how and why Julie and Melissa died but to this day the full truth about the case is unknown and the trial itself seemed to create more mystery than closure.
Dutroux takes a heroin addict associate and, back in the infamous white van, goes scoping young girls to kidnap. They staked out a swimming pool where they find a 14-year-old girl, Leticia. Journalist Douglas DeConnick reported how at this time the white van had been noticed by multiple people and someone had a part of its number plate. Finally, Dutroux was arrested, along with his wife and Jean-Michel Nihoul for the kidnapping of Leticia. Dutroux, while arrested, confesses also to kidnapping a 12-year-old girl Sabine who had been held captive and raped for 79 days.
One of the victims herself mentions judges and others involved in organized rape. She implicates Nihoul as a sort of ringleader and the connection to the trafficking. Nihoul was said to have a list of children to kidnap and abuse, Jean-Michel “abused children in a very sadistic way” they were taken to sex parties where Dutroux would bring drugs and young girls to parties where those at the upper echelon were involved. Other girls involved also named influential persons who were supposedly involved in the sex trafficking of the young girls.
Regina Louff has been accused of lying despite her testimony having never changed. It was Nihoul, “the party monster” she says, who invited magistrates, judges, businessmen and other important personages, “It was big business and it was very well organized too. There’s a lot of money going on there and a lot of blackmail too. They had a lot of parties. They filmed it even. So yes, it exists. I know it sounds crazy and there is a big taboo on everything like that, but it exists.” The businessman and associate of Dutroux Nihoul was cleared of all but drug dealing and freed within five months on that charge.
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Dutroux confessed and showed police not only where the living victims were being held, but also where the bodies of four girls, Julie Lejeune, Mélissa Russo, An Marchal, and Eefje Lambrecks had been buried. Julie and Melissa, he maintained, died accidentally from starvation. An and Eefje were drugged, wrapped in plastic and buried alive.
The investigation into whether a larger network was involved. Officers were taken off the case just as they began uncovering details, witnesses turned up dead. A judge who some family of victims claimed was earnestly working to bring those responsible to justice was taken off the case. At this time murmurs of conspiracy and cover-up leaked out into the Belgian populace. To this day, several investigators and family of victims maintain their belief that Dutroux was correct.
The comedy of errors that was the official investigation smacks of cover-up. The cameras used for Operation Othello were only on during the day time. The tapes, marked with “some symbol” as unimportant were ignored despite them showing the construction of the rape dungeon and rape of girls. Police claimed they were not able to watch them because they did not have a VHS player at their disposal. Evidently renting a VCR in the 90’s in Belgium was far more difficult than elsewhere in Europe and the Western world. On top of that the farce of a trial, the number of witnesses who suddenly go missing or are found dead under suspicious circumstances and Belgium’s police chief, justice minister and interior minister all resigning as the trial begins casts a pall on the official proceedings that followed the negligent, if not criminally incompetent official investigation.
Investigators were told to cease their work. In one documentary an investigator called off the case has tears in his eyes as he explains “we were coming close to some things, perhaps.” Other distressing things followed. Melissa’s parents were refused the right to see their daughter’s remains on the grounds it was not good for their psychological state. “What would have been good for us was to be certain.”
Eventually, 29 police, prominent businessmen and Gendarmes were arrested in connection with the suspected pedophile ring.
At this time a rash of strikes and demonstrations occurred. The dramatic scene of firemen turning their hoses on official buildings just one scene in the larger drama. Belgium was on the brink of a literal revolution. Meanwhile, radio and television didn’t do much to publicize what was going on but still 300,000 people showed up to march through the streets of Brussels dressed in white with white balloons. The white symbolizing innocence. The innocence lost of numerous young girls involved in the Dutroux affair.
Dutroux was eventually sentenced in 2004. Dutroux maintained till the end he was only following orders from an international pedophile ring he was working with. Dutroux even alleged two policemen were involved in helping him abduct two of the girls. To this day Le Monstre Belge, has left his mark on the nation of Belgium. Over a third of Belgians who carried the surname Dutroux changed it between 1996 and the end of the trial. Sadly, this case is resembles other cases of organized exploitation of children that have occurred in Italy, England and elsewhere.