Marc Dutroux was a pedophile and serial killer who preyed on young girls in Charleroi, Belgium. He was arrested for the abduction and rape of 5 young girls in 1986 and released in 1992. In 1995, Dutroux began a series of abductions, rapes, and tortures of an additional 6 young girls. Two of these victims would be buried alive, two would be starved to death, and two were rescued.
Marc Dutroux was born in Ixelles, Belgium on November 6, 1956. He was the oldest of 5 children. His parents, Victor and Jeanine Dutroux, were schoolteachers. In 1971, Victor and Jeanine divorced, and 15-year-old Dutroux lived with his mother. In later years, Dutroux would share details of the physical abuse he had suffered by his parents.
In 1976, Dutroux married his first wife; they had two children. He confessed that while they were married; he had beaten his wife and cheated on her repeatedly. After their divorce, Marc married one of his mistresses, Michelle Martin, a schoolteacher. They had three children.
Dutroux was an electrician by trade but was regularly unemployed. To provide for his family, he became a car thief. He would steal high-end luxury cars that were then exported into Czech and Hungary. He was also known to rob people and, occasionally, deal drugs. With the proceeds from the car thefts, Dutroux could purchase 7 small properties in and around Charleroi, Belgium, a town located approximately 45 minutes south of Brussels, Belgium.
In 1983, police arrested Dutroux for the rape and torture of a 50-year-old woman. During the assault, the woman would report to police he put a razor blade inside her vagina. The prosecutor dropped the charges because of a lack of evidence.
The First Series of Abductions
In 1985, Marc Dutroux, Michelle Martin Dutroux, and a friend, Jean van Peteghem, began the first series of abductions, rapes, and assaults. The victims were each held for 24 hours, during which they were raped and tortured.
– Two unidentified girls from Morlanwelz, Belgium
– Sylvie, 11, abducted on June 7, 1985
– Maria V., 19, abducted on October 17, 1985
– Axelle D. (unknown age) abducted on December 14, 1985
– Elisabeth, 15, abducted on December 18, 1985
– Catherine B., 18, abducted on January 17, 1986
All three were arrested in 1986 for their crimes. On April 26, 1989, Dutroux, Martin, and Peteghem were convicted of kidnapping, unlawful confinement, and sexual abuse. Michelle Martin Dutroux was sentenced, as an accomplice, to 5 years, yet she only served 2 years, and Peteghem received 6 1/2 years. Marc Dutroux was sentenced to 13 1/2 years. While incarcerated, Dutroux convinced a mental health counselor that he was mentally ill. He began receiving public (government) assistance of $1,200 per month and medical prescriptions for sleeping pills. He would later use the medication in further abductions. Dutroux was released in 1992 (on good behavior) after serving about 7 years (including the time served before the trial).
Once Dutroux was released, he and his wife, Martin, constructed a home-made dungeon with cages, in the cellar of one of his properties in the town of Marcinelle. The space was measured at 7 ft long x 3 ft wide x 5 ft high. They had constructed a hidden elaborate entrance with a concrete door and complexed sliding track.
Initially, police would not file a report, stating that the girls must have gone out to have fun, and they had guessed that they would show up soon. It was several days before the police began their investigation.
The Second Series of Abductions
On June 28, 1995, Marc Dutroux abducted two young girls, Julie Lejeune, 8, and Melissa Russo,8, from their neighborhood in Grace-Hollogne, a town approximately 55 miles east of Charleroi. Dutroux took them to his home-made dungeon, where he held them captive for several months. He repeatedly raped and tortured them while recording the abuse.
On August 23, 1995, Dutroux with an accomplice, Michel Lelièvre, abducted two teenage girls from Ostend Station, Belgium, a coastal town approximately 100 miles from Charleroi. The teens, An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambrecks, 19, from Hasselt, had been returning from a camping trip they had taken with a group of friends.
Dutroux still had the first two 8-year-old girls’ captive in his cellar, so he kept An and Eefje chained in a bedroom in the main part of one of his houses where he repeatedly raped and tortured them. Later testimony provided by Michelle Martin Dutroux stated that one month after their abduction, Marc Dutroux and another accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, drugged the girls and took them to a rural property in the town of Jumet that was owned by Weinstein.
In December 1995, Dutroux was arrested for car theft. He was convicted and served almost 4 months in prison. Due to his arrest, police searched his home on Dec 13 and Dec 19. During the last search, police were accompanied by a locksmith, in case one was needed. While searching the cellar, the locksmith told police he had clearly heard screaming. The two police officers stated he must be hearing children playing outside and disregarded his observation. The girls in the dungeon remained undiscovered. Homemade video tapes were discovered, but investigators would not watch them until much later.
On May 28, 1996, Dutroux kidnapped 12-year-old Sabine Darden while she was walking to school. Over a 3-month period, Dutroux sexually assaulted her while keeping her locked in his dungeon. He allowed and often encouraged Sabine to write letters to her parents. Dutroux had convinced her he was mailing the letters when, in actuality; he was reading them and attempting to use that information to manipulate her.
On Aug 9, Dutroux abducted 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez as she was on her way home from a local public swimming pool. He placed her in the dungeon with Sabine. Someone witnessed her abduction and a suspicious white van. The witness managed to get the first few characters of the vehicle’s license plate number. Prosecutor Michel Bourlet began the search for the van. He discovered a match with a van that was registered to Dutroux. Bourlet contacted investigators who had been building a dossier named Othello. While reviewing the dossier, Bourlet discovered a convict turned police informant had reported to authorities that a man named Dutroux had approached him, offering him money if he would help him to abduct girls.
On Aug 13, over 40 police officers performed a synchronized raid on all 7 properties belonging to Dutroux. Marc Dutroux, his wife Michelle, and their accomplice, Lelièvre, were taken in for questioning. Dutroux calmly and repeatedly lied throughout several hours of questioning. After several hours of interrogation, investigators released Lelièvre. Shortly after, a neighbor of Dutroux came forward, stating that they had seen Dutroux and Lelievre carrying a girl wrapped in a blanket. Investigators immediately arrested Lelièvre for the second time. Dutroux repeatedly changed his story over several days of interrogation, then ultimately stated, “now that all of these parts of the story contradict each other, I will give you the 2 girls.”
On Aug 15, 1996, Dutroux took police to the dungeon in his home in Marcinelle, where Sabine and Laetitia were found alive.
Following the recovery of the two living girls, police resumed interrogating Dutroux, hoping to gain information regarding Julie and Melissa, the two missing eight-year-old girls from the prior year. After 48 hours of interrogation, Dutroux finally confessed that the girls were at his property. Police rushed to Dutroux’s home in Marcinelle, hoping they would find the girls alive. Police discovered the bodies of Julie and Melissa in trash bags in Dutroux’s garden. Although they were buried at his home, Dutroux stated he was not responsible for their abduction or death because he was in prison, and that it was his wife, Martin’s, fault that the girls were there and had died. Also discovered buried in Dutroux’s garden was the body of one of his accomplices, Bernard Weinstein.
While police were making the discoveries in Dutroux’s garden, Dutroux made a quick confession regarding An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, the two missing campers from the previous year. Dutroux directed police to a rural Charleroi property which was owned by the deceased, Bernard Weinstein. On September 3, 1996, investigators discovered the two young women buried on the Weinstein property. The medical examiner determined they had both been assaulted, raped, and then buried alive.
The Criminal Proceedings
It would take 7 1/2 years before the trials of Marc Dutroux, Michelle Dutroux and Michel Lelièvre would take place because the cases were so large and complex. The public was so outraged over the prosecutorial delay and what they considered investigative mishandling of the cases, including a judge not allowing DNA from Dutroux’s dungeon to be tested. Ultimately, it would be tested in 2001. Several protests took place across Belgium. The largest protest was called “The White March” in which several thousand people used the color white to signify hope and peace for the victims.
The trials of the three suspects began on Mar 1, 2004 in South Belgium. There were over 235 charges filed against Dutroux, his wife, and their accomplice. Dutroux pled guilty to murdering Weinstein because Weinstein was wanted in connection with an unrelated investigation and Dutroux was afraid that Weinstein would implicate Dutroux in his crimes. Although Dutroux confessed to Weinstein’s murder, he pled not guilty to the abductions and murders of Julie Lejeune, Melissa Russo, An Marchal, and Eefje Lambrecks. The trial lasted 14 weeks.
On June 17, 2004, the jury found Dutroux guilty of all charges brought against him.
On June 22, 2004, they sentenced Dutroux to the maximum of life without the possibility of parole. The jury found Michelle Dutroux guilty of her part and sentenced her to 30 years. A jury found Michel Lelièvre guilty of his part and received a 25-year sentence.
In a twist that garnered public outcry, they released Michelle Dutroux from prison on Aug 28, 2012. She lives in hiding under the protection of Belgian authorities. Marc Dutroux has filed several appeals and requests to be released, as his wife was. All requests have been denied. He remains in the Prison of Nivelles, in solitary confinement.
In 2019, Dutroux was granted a new psychiatric evaluation. Three psychiatrists evaluated Dutroux and wrote a 90-page report based on their findings. According to news outlets, they determined Dutroux still has a high-risk of re-offending, stating he poses “maximum risk, a certain degree of perversion, a psychopathic profile, an asociality and a certain sadism”, citing he lacks remorse for his victims. After the report, his lawyers stopped filing for parole.
The entire Dutroux proceedings spurned civil unrest across the entire country of Belgium. So much so that a few high-level government officials resigned over allegations of mishandling of information and implications of involvement. Several inter-departmental investigations were conducted. Several police officers were fired. Judges were removed from the case. There were reports made that suggested some high-level officials were videotaped as they assaulted young victims. It was speculated that Dutroux was attempting to begin a human trafficking/child prostitution operation across Eastern Europe that coincided with his car theft exporting activities. With such a level of uncertainty, the entire judicial system of Belgium was re-designed as a direct result of this case. In a final twist, more than 30 potential witnesses (or persons of interest against Dutroux) including a few investigators, died under mysterious circumstances throughout the time of investigation and legal proceedings against Dutroux.
In June 2022 demolition of one if Dutroux’s houses began. A memorial for victims of pedophilia will be placed there.