This is the final part of our Marc Dutroux investigation.
Paedophile Dutroux’s support system in law enforcement and legal
circles came into their own as the case wound up. I think it’s
important to place these facts out in the open once more for public
evaluation because much information is buried in “conspiracy” sites.
In April 1996, Dutroux ended his four-month sentence for car
theft and promptly carried on where he had left off. As we saw in
part two, Operation Othello, the watching of his house, had been
called off by police officer Rene Michaux.
This man had been down to the dungeon himself and heard the
screams of the two then-alive girls. He had ignored and even hushed
up the screams, according to the locksmith who accompanied him.
Years later in court, Michaux claimed that he thought the cries were
coming from outside, in the street!
The face of this sinister police officer bears that strange
flicker of evil that paedophiles are prone to exhibit. He played a
central role in keeping attention away from Dutroux when the latter
started abducting girls. By calling off the watching of his house,
he kept up his good work by clearing the way for Dutroux to
Dutroux didn’t waste any time. Within a month of his release, he
abducted 12-year-old Sabine Dardenne. Her disappearance was to
remain a mystery to the police. Small wonder, as an outgoing
magistrate hadn’t even bothered to inform her replacement of the
ongoing missing girls’ cases.
In August 1996, 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez was abducted. Dutroux
claimed later in court that it was for “company” for his other
This time the community swung into action and the local police
force became passionately involved in the search, a definite
departure from the behaviour we’ve seen of their compatriots in
other regions. The result was that information about a suspicious
van came forward. A match was obtained to Dutroux through a
partially remembered licence plate. He had finally been caught.
Dutroux led them to his dungeon early on a Monday morning. The
14-year-old who had been abducted six days earlier was found. The
discovery of the other girl who had been there for two months was
surprising to some.
As the girls were freed from the cage, they ran to hug and kiss
Dutroux, who apparently enjoyed the moment. They had been
brainwashed into thinking that Dutroux was protecting them from “bad
people”. These were now the bad people that had arrived to come get
It is important to highlight the role of the investigative Judge,
Jean-Marc Connerotte. He was apparently instrumental in securing the
arrest of Dutroux and greatly admired by the public when it became
clear he was practically a lone ranger surrounded by criminal
In August, Connerotte appealed for other victims of paedophile
rings to come forward with testimony.
Thirty-three-year-old Regina Louf responded. She described
various orgies she had attended in her youth in detail and named a
prominent Belgian businessman,
Jean-Michel Nihoul, as the chief organiser. She had also seen a
young Dutroux there. She described a house in detail and a murder
she had seen at a “sex slave” party in 1984.
Dutroux alleged from the beginning that he was not acting alone,
saying that Nihoul was the actual “brains” of the operation. The
authorities were determined not to believe him.
Here’s how an Observer reporter, who did an excellent
piece in 2002, described her meeting with Nihoul prior to his
arrest: “During the course of our meal he, apparently playfully,
grabbed me, tickling, and finally pulled me over on to him in the
restaurant booth until I had to appeal to my colleagues for rescue.”
He had greeted her by saying he was the “monster of Belgium”.
A playful monster, in other words.
“He has all but dared the state to prosecute him,” said the BBC,
“claiming that he is beyond the reach of the law because he has
information that, if made public, ‘would bring the government and
the entire state down’.”
In custody Nihoul confessed to “organising an orgy at a Belgium
chateau, which several government officials, police officers and a
former European commissioner attended”.
As victims started coming forward and confessing to sexual abuse
in their youth and the same names kept popping up, the notion that
Dutroux was acting alone was becoming less and less credible. The
media were obviously in full swing by now, with the “House of
horror” headlines we can all remember.
By mid-October, the citizens of Belgium were stirred to public
outrage as details of the police mismanagement started appearing.
“The Justice Ministry was sitting on a politically sensitive list of
customers of paedophile videotapes,” said a report in the Los
Angeles Times at the time. This list drifted into obscurity.
What tipped public outcry into mass protest was when “the
investigative Judge in the Dutroux case, Jean-Marc Connerotte, was
dismissed. Many Belgians viewed Connerotte as a hero because he
secured the arrest of Marc Dutroux and collected significant
evidence against him that would help convict Dutroux and those in
his paedophile ring.
“Belgium’s Supreme Court removed Connerotte because he attended a
fund-raising dinner, which was organised to help in the search for
missing children. It was later decided that his attendance at the
fund-raising event caused him to lose his objectivity when
investigating the Dutroux case.”
The suspicious dismissal of Connerotte led to a remarkable march.
Called the White March, it was the biggest public demonstration in
Belgium since the Nüremberg trials. The public were given strong
reassurances by the government of a shake-up of the police system
and justice triumphing.
But this was not forthcoming. In fact, the opposite tendency was
already gaining momentum, silently, away from public statements.
The removal of Connerotte complete, the network set to work at
discrediting the testimony of Regina Louf. As mentioned, Louf had
supplied details of a murder she had witnessed at a party attended
by Dutroux and Nihoul.
Said the Observer: “Christine van Hees’s body had been
found in 1984 dumped in the grounds of a disused mushroom farm on
the outskirts of Brussels. The farm was later demolished, but in
1996 Louf described to the police team its intricate details, the
wallpaper, the sinks, hooks on the ceiling, a network of stairs and
adjoining rooms unique to that building.”
A man who grew up at the farm, the son of the former owner,
showed the Observer reporter photographs of the house and the
mushroom factory. “He said: ‘I have never met Regina Louf. All I
know is that she could not have described the house as well as she
did unless she’d been there. It was two houses joined together in a
strange way. It would be impossible to invent it.’”
For 12 years the unsolved murder of Van Hees gathered dust in the
Brussels files under the direction of Judge Van Espen. Two years
ago, a Belgian journalist revealed the close relationship between
Van Espen and Nihoul and his then wife.
As a lawyer, Van Espen had represented Nihoul’s wife. Van Espen’s
sister was the godmother of Nihoul’s child. Yet, when Louf accused
these two of the murder, Van Espen saw no conflict of interest and
no reason to resign. Nor was he sacked, as Connerotte had been.
Instead he was allowed to order the police officers to stay out of
the case. Van Espen only resigned as the judge in charge of the
mushroom-factory investigation in early 1998 after his relationship
with Nihoul was exposed.
A strange co-incidence, isn’t it? No wonder it was so important
to discredit Regina Louf, as she had evidence that not only
connected Dutroux to Nihoul, but also Nihoul to very prominent
In its response, the network didn’t disappoint, coming out guns
Observer: “In the spring of 1997, Louf’s interrogators had
been sent home without explanation and a new team was assigned to
‘reread’ her testimony. The press was briefed that the previous team
had been removed because they had manipulated the evidence of Louf,
who was then known by the code name X1. It is a charge which the
police team has always vigorously denied and which has never been
But they weren’t finished yet.
“And then the media campaign began. Louf’s name was leaked to the
press. The government-owned TV station RTBF began a campaign
designed to prove that Dutroux was an ‘isolated pervert’ kidnapping
girls for himself, that there was no network, that Nihoul was
innocent and Louf was a liar.
“Belgium’s flagship current-affairs television programme, Au
Nom de La Loi , floated Louf’s face over a backdrop of crows
pecking over debris orchestrated by a Blair Witch-style
soundtrack. Her ageing parents appeared as tragic victims of a
deranged fantasist, whose false memories had blighted their last
“What the programme makers knew but didn’t say was that the
parents had already admitted to police that a family friend in his
40s, Tony van den Bogaert, had had a key to their home and unlimited
access to their 12-year-old daughter. Nor did they tell their
viewers that Van den Bogaert had himself admitted his relationship
with Louf to police.
“Van den Bogaert lives freely on the borders of Belgium and
Holland unmolested by the law or the press. Au Nom de La Loi
has never attempted to track him down and expose this self-confessed
paedophile. Instead it has devoted hours of airtime to destroying
the name of his victim, Louf, whose only offence appears to be that
she was prepared to testify about the organised abuse she’d suffered
as a child.
“This campaign has succeeded. Judges have announced that Louf
will not be called as a witness in any future trial of Dutroux or
his associates. Her testimony and that of all the 10 witnesses who
came forward to Judge Connerotte has been declared worthless.”
“Even the Prosecutor General of the Dutroux case, Anne Thily,
seems to have been in on the shady action, saying that Louf was a
‘fantasist’ and had ‘invented everything’.
“Connerotte’s replacement, Judge Langlois, also parked his car in
the same garage, because he blatantly refused permission for the
hairs gathered in Dutroux’s dungeon to be sent for DNA analysis
‘despite pressure from his prosecutor, Michel Bourlet, who believed
that a DNA identification of those hairs might reveal who else was
His boss Thily backed him all the way.
“There was no need to get the hairs analysed as no one else
entered the cage,” she said. “There was no network so there was no
need to look for evidence of one.”
What ingenious rubbish. Bad scriptwriters wouldn’t even be able
to come up with something like this.
“In any case,” she continued, “the hairs have all now been
analysed — all 5 000.”
And the results of this analysis? asked the Observer
Thily flashed a “triumphant” smile at the reporter.
She concluded: “No evidence of any relevance in the Dutroux
affair. Which proves, of course, that Langlois was right all along.”
The Observer reporter had done her homework.
“Sources central to the investigation confirm that to date the
hairs have still not been analysed.”
The reporter caught Thily out again when she said that “the
bodies were too decomposed to test for DNA”.
“The autopsy states clearly that the bodies were not decomposed,”
said the reporter. “Samples were taken. But no one seems to know
what has happened to the results.”
So yes, the picture by now had gotten much murkier, with a return
to the former “incompetence” that had so tragically been manifested
before. The Dutroux case had been hijacked yet again, this time by
the chief prosecutor.
Behind the scenes, the murder of potential witnesses was
occurring by now. Publicly the cause of death was all declared
“suicide”. Things take a rather macabre turn when you hear that even
Nihoul’s dentist committed “suicide”.
But back to the official side of the case. Here, under the dodgy
auspices of Judge Langlois of “no DNA” fame, the investigation took
on another pace altogether. The citizens of Belgium were basically
being dealt a collective slap in the face as the trial stalled and
crawled along — for another eight years.
Here’s the excuse for the delay.
The Observer: “The official explanation for the delay is
that hysterical conspiracy theories forced investigators to search
for paedophile networks which didn’t exist.”
Oh, there we go again. Dutroux acted alone.
“But far from being investigated, leads pointing to a network
seem rather to have been ignored or buried.”
Even though Dutroux “acted alone”, he still apparently had some
friends willing to lend a hand, because in 1997 the prison “allowed
Dutroux to leave the building to consult files that would be used in
his upcoming trial”. Dutroux used the opportunity and “overpowered a
police officer that was guarding him, and escaped for three hours”.
As late as March 18 2004, “a handcuff key was found in Dutroux’s
cell, apparently smuggled in a salt bag. Prison authorities were
accused to trying to arrange Dutroux’s escape.”
The year 2004 finally saw the sentencing of Dutroux. He obviously
— or under the circumstances, perhaps one should say surprisingly —
got a life sentence.
His ex-wife Michelle Martin, the woman who stopped feeding the
youngsters in the dungeon because she was “afraid of them”, got 30
years. Accomplice businessman Michel Lelievre got 25 years.
The monster of Belgium, Nihoul, got a mere five years. He must
have been thrilled. That means, by the end of the year, he’ll be
back among us.
The aftermath of this whole affair leaves one with a troubling
picture of how dark deeds can flourish in very influential circles.
It’s surely little comfort to the bereaved families to know that the
full picture of this monstrous episode may never fully emerge.
If indeed Dutroux was part of a much bigger network, as seems
likely when one looks at the evidence, then most of its members
escaped detection. It seems bizarre to think that such a network can
exist and include politicians and other highly placed members of
society. It takes quite some machinery to deflect the outraged
attention of an entire country. But they managed it.
By 2002, the citizens who had taken part in the march were no
longer being hailed but called a “mob” in certain newspapers. The
rehabilitation had been exhaustively applied.
Dutroux acted alone! That’s the official version that wants to
house itself in our collective memory.
The journalists who pierced the fabric of this complicated
cover-up and exposed the dishonesty reeling in its wake have done
their community a great service. We can be lucky that we live in a
time when it is more difficult to conceal facts than a few decades
ago. And yet so much remains unanswered, buried in the pile of
yesterday’s papers. The general public don’t hold their interest for
long, as we’re seeing with the Madeleine McCann saga.
It’s bitter to discover that Rene Michaux, the police officer who
took that fateful trip down the stairs to the dungeon and heard the
screams, was never even charged. He’s almost 60 now and is probably
hoping to take his secrets to his grave.
The others who were involved appear, for the time being, to have
gotten away with it. Many of them may even be flourishing in state
and judicial circles all over Europe, which might explain why the
McCann investigation has been such a tragic mess.