No clue in hunt for Belgian girls (21.08.96)

The Independent, 21st August 1996

by Louise Jury

Michel Bourlet, the prosecutor in charge of the child-sex scandal investigation, announced at a press conference last night that a special team of up to 30 officers was being drafted in to pool information on the case.

Belgium’s Justice Minister, Stefaan de Clerck, has given the team permission to hire specialist equipment used in the Cromwell Street inquiry.

Commenting on claims that missing teenagers An Marchal, 19, and Eefje Lambrecks, 17, could be in Germany or the Czech Republic, Mr Bourlet said: “We are following the trails, but at the moment these are just rumours. We are trying to remain optimistic that An and Eefje are still alive.”

The investigation into thescandal continued at a string of addresses across Belgium yesterday, but there was still no sign of the two teenagers, who vanished from Ostend a year ago.

The rescue last week of two girls from a cellar where they had been imprisoned had raised hopes of finding the girls. Marc Dutroux and Michel Lelievre, the two men at the centre of the paedophile investigation, have admitted kidnapping them.

But despite speculation that the teenagers may have been sold into prostitution abroad, detectives have not yet made any formal approaches to foreign police for help.

Books of condolence for Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, both aged eight, have been opened in many towns and cities across Belgium. Their bodies were discovered at the weekend in Sars-la-Buissiere, near Charleroi, buried in the garden of Dutroux, a convicted rapist and paedophile whose child- sex crimes were discovered last week. The girls starved to death earlier this year while 39-year-old Dutroux was in prison. They will be buried on Thursday.

In the Charleroi suburb of Marcinel, where Laetitia Delhez, 14, and Sabine Dardenne, 12, were found alive in a sound-proof cellar and where Julie and Melissa are believed to have died, people continue to sign the national petition calling for tough penalties for paedophiles.

Dutroux, his second wife Michelle Martin, and associates Lelievre and Jean-Michel Nihoul all face charges in connection with the kidnapping and abuse of Laetitia and Sabine. There are fears they may also be involved in the disappearance of another six children.

1 comment
  1. Troyhand said:,1441841
    New Straits Times [Malaysia] – Aug 24, 1996
    Belgian police search properties of child rapist

    BRUSSELS, Fri. – Begian authorities are stepping up their search of properties owned by a convicted child rapist’s paedophile gang to establish whether they had hidden more bodies of young girls after kidnapping them.

    Investigators are to use hi-tech British equipment from the “House of Horrors” probe, which helped British police find the bodies of 10 women and girls.

    Belgian police will also rely on the help of British Detective Superintendent John Bennett who led the investigation into the murders in Gloucester, England.

    “We just want to make sure there are no other secret places,” Public Prosecutor Michel Bourlet said.

    Chief suspect Marc Dutroux, 39, led police to the bodies of two eight-year-olds buried in the garden of one of his houses.

    The girls were rescued from a home-built dungeon in Dutroux’s house last Friday, but the remaining two – Eefje Lambrecks and An Marchal – are still missing.

    The police investigation centres on finding those two girls, who have been missing for exactly a year.

    In some of Dutroux’s houses, underground cells and dungeon have been found, some still under construction, built to hold children prior to their transfer.

    Police said 10 to 11 properties owned by the gang would be searched first by dogs trained to find trapped living humans, and next by dogs trained to find human remains.

    Police would then verify the plans of all the houses with architects to ensure no hiding places have been built. Finally, the specialist equipment will be used to detect cavities in walls or basements, where bodies could have been hidden.

    Yesterday, police searched the home of Dutroux, an unemployed father of three, in Sars-la-Buissiere, south of Brussels, where the bodies of Russo and Lejeune were found.

    Dutroux is believed to have been the mastermind behind a kidnapping and juvenile pornography gang, which included his second wife.

    At least 15 children have vanished in Belgium in the past six years. Seven have now been found dead, six are still missing and only two have been rescued.

    Following the arrest of Dutroux, his second wife, an accomplice and a fourth suspect, Belgian and Dutch police have re-opened various cases of missing children.

    Belgian media said yesterday the authorities were mulling the possibility of carrying out DNA genetic fingerprinting tests to compare Dutroux’s tissue with tissue found on two young murder victims, including a German girl killed this summer. Under Belgian law, the suspect has to give his consent.

    Yesterday, police announced the arrest of a fifth suspect. – Reuter

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