Marc Dutroux, A Pedophile and Child-Killer
There was finally a break in the case of the missing girls in August, 1996. While conducting a neighborhood search near the area where police thought that one of the girls had been kidnapped, they came across a person who remembered a suspicious vehicle close to the individual's house. The eyewitness was able to recall some of the numbers on the vehicle's license plate, which eventually led the police to Marc Dutroux.
On August 15, 1996 police raided Dutroux's house where they discovered a soundproof concrete dungeon in the basement. The dungeon was the one of which an eyewitness had told them about the previous year. Within the dungeon they discovered two young girls, who were alive but had been sexually abused. The two girls were Laetitia Delhez, aged 14, and Sabine Dardenne, aged 12. Both girls had admitted to being sexually assaulted and filmed pornographically by Dutroux. Police found further evidence including at least 300 child pornography videos. The youngest girl, Delhez, had been kidnapped on August 9, 1996, after being grabbed off the street, thrown into Dutroux's car and drugged. The older of the two, Dardenne, had been kept in the same dungeon as Delhez. However, Dardenne had suffered sexual abuse by Dutroux for a total of two and a half months.
A few days after the discovery of Dardenne and Delhez, police exhumed the bodies of two girls who were not as fortunate to survive in Dutroux's deadly dungeon. Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, two eight-year-old friends who disappeared together in June 1995, were found buried in Dutroux's backyard at another of his houses, in Sars-La-Bouissiere.
Dutroux had told police that the two girls had starved to death between February and March, during the time he was imprisoned for car theft. Dutroux insisted that it was a former accomplice of his named Bernard Weinstein who was at fault for the girls' deaths, stating that he failed to feed them while he was imprisoned. He also said it was Weinstein who kidnapped the children, supposedly for a commission from Dutroux. Angered that Weinstein allowed the two little girls to die, he admitted to giving him barbiturates and burying him alive next to Russo and Lejeune. Weinstein's body was found alongside the two girls.
Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune were buried shortly after their discovery, in white coffins side by side, during a private ceremony. Thousands paid their respects to the two friends who lived and died together.
While in police custody, Dutroux and accomplice Michel Lelievre had allegedly admitted kidnapping two other girls who had gone missing a year earlier from a camping trip at Ostend, a Belgian resort. The two girls, An Marchal, aged 19, and Eefje Lambreks, aged 17, were found at another house owned by Dutroux, several weeks after the discovery of Russo and Lejeune. The two girls had been buried under concrete in a shed next to Dutroux's house. Police also discovered Dutroux's former accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, had occupied the house for three years.
Others who were detained or arrested in connection with the Dutroux murders and child-sex ring included, Dutroux's second wife Michelle Martin and Jean-Michel Nihoul, a businessman who confessed to organizing an orgy at a Belgium chateau, which several government officials, police officers, and a former European Commissioner attended. Michel Lelievre, an accomplice in the kidnapping of An Marchal and Eefje Lambreks, was also arrested. In September, 1996, nine police officers in Charleroi were detained for questioning regarding their involvement and possible negligence in the Dutroux investigation. Also during that month, Marleen De Cockere was arrested on criminal charges of conspiracy in connection with Dutroux's crime ring. De Cockere was described by police as the love interest of Jean Nihoul. Seven other people were later arrested in connection to the child-sex ring.