Another long-dated report on the horrors of a VIP pedophile-ring in Belgium. This report is extremely well documented on the original website.
"Paedophiles can boldly and courageously affirm what they choose ... I am also a theologian and as a theologian, I believe it is God's will that there be closeness and intimacy, unity of flesh, between people ... paedophiles can make the assertion that the pursuit of intimacy and love is what they choose. With boldness, they can say, 'I believe this is in fact part of God's will.'" Ralph Underwager, 'expert' witness for the defense in scores of child abuse cases and former vocal member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, in an interview in Paidika (a pro-pedophilia publication), conducted in June 1991.
To the vast majority of Americans, the name Marc Dutroux doesn't mean much. Drop that name in Belgium though and you're likely to elicit some very visceral reactions. Dutroux - convicted along with his wife in 1989 for the rape and violent abuse of five young girls, the youngest of whom was just eleven - now stands accused of being a key player in an international child prostitution and pornography ring whose practices included kidnapping, rape, sadistic torture, and murder.
Dutroux was sentenced in 1989 to thirteen years for his crimes, but was freed after having served just three. This was in spite of the fact that, as prison governor Yvan Stuaert would later tell a parliamentary commission: “A medical report described him as a perverse psychopath, an explosive mix. He was an evident danger to society.”
The man who turned Dutroux loose on society, Justice Minister Melchior Wathelet, soon after received a prestigious appointment to serve as a judge at the European Court of Justice at the Hague.
Shortly after Dutroux’s release, young girls began to disappear in the vicinity of some of his homes. Though technically unemployed and drawing welfare from the state, he nevertheless owned at least six houses and lived quite lavishly.
His rather lucrative income appears to have been derived from trading in child sex-slaves, child prostitution, and child pornography. Many of his houses appeared to stand vacant, though at least some of them were in fact used as torture and imprisonment centers where kidnapped girls were taken and held in underground dungeons.
Some of Dutroux’s homes were used in this way for several years following his early release, with a growing body of evidence to indicate that fact to the police. True to form though, authorities failed to act on the information, or acted on it in a way that showed either complete incompetence (according to most press reports), or police complicity in the operation (according to any sort of logic).
Police seem to have routinely ignored tips that later proved to be accurate, including a report from Dutroux's own mother that her son was holding girls prisoner in one of his houses. In addition, key facts were withheld from investigators working on the disappearances and lines of communication were unaccountably broken, inexcusably hindering the investigation.
Police did search one of Dutroux's homes on no less than three separate occasions over the course of the investigation. On at least two of those occasions, two of the missing girls were being held in heinous conditions imprisoned in a custom-built dungeon in the basement. Nevertheless, the police searches came up empty, despite the fact that the investigating officers reported “hearing children’s voices on one occasion,” according to the Guardian.
It was not until August 13, 1996, four years after the disappearances began, that authorities arrested Dutroux, along with his wife (an elementary school teacher), a lodger, a policeman, and a man the Guardian described as “an associate with political connections” – elsewhere identified as Michel Lelievre.
Two days later, police again searched Dutroux's home and discovered the soundproof dungeon/torture center. As CNN reported, three years earlier “police ignored tips from an informant who said Dutroux was building secret cellars to hold girls before selling them abroad.” And in 1995, the same informant had told police that Dutroux had offered an unidentified third man “the equivalent of $3,000 to $5,000 to kidnap girls.”
Incredibly, it was later reported by the Guardian that police actually had in their possession a videotape of the dungeon being constructed: “Belgian police could have saved the lives of two children allegedly murdered by the paedophile Marc Dutroux if they had watched a video seized from his home which showed him building their hidden cell.” The tape had been seized in one of the earlier searches.
At the time of the final search, two fourteen-year-old girls were found imprisoned in the dungeon, chained and starving. They described to police being used as child prostitutes and in the production of child pornography videos. More than 300 such videos were taken into custody by the police.
A few weeks later, two more girls were found buried under concrete at yet another of the Dutroux properties. By that time, ten people were reportedly in custody in connection to the case. Elsewhere in Belgium, the News Telegraph reported that: “The corpses of two women and parts of a third body have been discovered in a freezer at a Lebanese restaurant in Brussels.”
'Parts of a third?' I don't want to think about where the rest of her went.
As the body count mounted, the outrage of the Belgian people grew. They demanded to know why this man, dubbed the 'Belgian Beast,' had been released after having served such an absurdly short sentence. And to know why, as evidence had continued to mount and girls had continued to disappear, the police had chosen to do nothing. How many girls, they demanded to know, had been killed as a result of this inaction?
Adding further fuel to the fire, as a Los Angeles Times report revealed, was that: “a highly regarded children’s activist, Marie-France Botte, claims that the Justice Ministry is sitting on a politically sensitive list of customers of pedophile videotapes.”
The same report noted that: “The affair has become further clouded by the discovery of a motorcycle that reportedly matches the description of one used in the 1991 assassination of prominent Belgian businessman and politician Andre Cools. Michel Bourlet, the head prosecutor on the pedophile case, meanwhile, has publicly declared that the investigation can be thoroughly pursued only without political interference. Several years ago, Bourlet was removed from the highly charged Cools case, which remains unsolved.”
A report in Time magazine alluded to murky links between the Dutroux operation and organized crime figures. Much later, Marc Verwilghen - the chief investigating magistrate on the case - would bluntly state: “For me, the Dutroux affair is a question of organised crime.” Also mentioned in the Time article was the use of secret “underground tunnels,” not unlike those described by children a decade earlier at the infamous McMartin Preschool.
Outrage continued to grow as more arrests were made and evidence of high-level government and police complicity continued to emerge. One of Dutroux's accomplices, businessman Jean-Michel Nihoul, confessed to organizing an ‘orgy’ at a Belgian chateau that had been attended by government officials, a former European Commissioner, and a number of law enforcement officers. A Belgian senator would note, quite accurately, that such parties were part of a system “which operates to this day and is used to blackmail the highly placed people who take part.”
In September, twenty-three suspects - at least nine of whom were police officers - were detained and questioned about their possible complicity in the crimes and/or their negligence in investigating the case. As the Los Angeles Times noted in a very brief, two-sentence report, the detainments “were the latest indication that police in the southern city of Charleroi may have helped cover up the alleged crimes of Marc Dutroux.”
The arrests followed raids on the police officers’ homes and on the headquarters of the Charleroi police force and were based on information supplied by police inspector Georges Zicot, who had already been charged as an accomplice. Three magistrates had also reportedly been interrogated by police investigators.
Just days before the arrests, police had also arrested five suspects in the Cools assassination, including a former regional government minister named Alain VanderBiest. Strangely enough, the News Telegraph reported that: “Police investigating the Cools murder in 1991 … have been given helpful leads by some of those arrested in the Dutroux case.” The Telegraph also noted that Cools “had promised ‘shocking revelations’ before his death.”
On October 14 came the straw that broke the camel's back: Jean-Marc Connerotte, who had been serving as the investigating judge on the case, was dismissed by the Belgian Supreme Court. Connerotte was viewed by the people as something of a rarity: a public official/law enforcement officer who actually appeared to be pursuing a prosecution, rather than a cover-up. The News Telegraph described him as: “the only figure in the judiciary who enjoys the nation’s confidence.”
As the New York Times reported, Connerotte “became a national hero in August after saving two children from a secret dungeon kept by a convicted child rapist and ordering the inquiry that led to the discovery of the bodies of four girls kidnapped by a child pornography network.” He had also, in 1994, arrested three men as suspects in the Cools assassination – just before the case was transferred to the jurisdiction of another magistrate.
His removal from the Dutroux case fanned the smoldering flames of public outrage; the Times report noted that: “Hundreds of thousands of people had petitioned the high court to retain the judge.” Adding yet more fuel to the fire, prosecutor Michel Bourlet was claiming that evidence suggested that a pedophile ring composed of the wealthy and powerful had been protected for twenty-five years.
With the families of Dutroux's victims calling for a general strike, men and women all across the country walked away from their jobs in protest as railway workers and bus drivers shut down public transportation, bringing some cities to a virtual standstill. The Telegraph reported that: “In Liege, firemen turned their hoses on the city’s court building” to symbolize the massive clean-up that was in order.
On October 20, 350,000 citizens (or was it 275,000?) of the tiny nation took to the streets of Brussels dressed all in white, demanding the reform of a system so corrupt that it would protect the abusers, rapists, torturers, and killers of children. The political fallout from the case would ultimately bring about the resignation of Belgium's State Police Chief, Interior Minister, and Justice Minister – likely sacrificial lambs tossed to the outraged masses to avoid what could easily have exploded into a full-scale insurrection by the people, particularly after police ‘incompetence’ allowed Dutroux to escape and remain at large for a brief time in April of 1998.
There were in fact calls from the people for the entire coalition government to step down. Months later, an opinion survey by Brussels’ Le Soir newspaper found that only one-in-five Belgians still had confidence in the federal government and the nation’s justice system. As the Los Angeles Times reported in January of 1998, “the conviction remains stubbornly widespread that members of the upper crust - government ministers, the Roman Catholic Church, the court of King Albert II - belonged to child sex rings, or protected them.”
The lingering distrust of the people was not alleviated by the fact that a parliamentary inquiry had, in April of 1997, identified thirty officials who had, as the Times tactfully put it, “failed to uncover Dutroux’s misdeeds.” Nearly a year later, none of them had yet suffered any repercussions. Additionally, at least ten missing children suspected of having fallen prey to Dutroux’s operation have never been found.
The commission’s report was, in many people’s eyes, a shameless cover-up. As the News Telegraph summarized, the report “said competition between rival forces had prevented vital information from being exchanged and obvious evidence from being followed up” – rather than acknowledge the obvious, which was that rampant police corruption and complicity were to blame.
Just a few months before the commission issued its report, the Telegraph was reporting that: “Grim rumors … have been circulating that a second paedophile network at least as appalling may have been operating in parallel to that said to involve Dutroux.” The bodies of seven children were believed to have been hidden by the ring, which was thought could be linked to Dutroux through Michel Nihoul.
Two months after that, a man named Patrick Derochette and three of his family members were arrested following the discovery of the body of a nine-year-old girl. Rumors quickly began circulating linking this crime to Dutroux as well. Like Dutroux, Derochette had previously been convicted on multiple counts of child rape. He had been committed to a psychiatric institution from which he was released after just six weeks.
Authorities quickly denied that there was any connection between the two cases. In January of 1998, however, the Telegraph reported that: “new evidence from a lawyer involved in the investigations blows a hole in previous police claims that there was no link between the cases involving the alleged child murderers Marc Dutroux and Patrick Derochette.” Once again, the connection was said to be through Nihoul.
In April of 1999, the Guardian reported that: “the highly respected chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into the case claims that his commission’s findings were muzzled by political and judicial leaders to prevent details emerging of complicity in the crimes … Mr. Verwilghen claims that senior political and legal figures refused to cooperate with the inquiry. He says magistrates and police were officially told to refuse to answer certain questions, in what he describes as ‘a characteristic smothering operation.’”
As of August of 2001, fully five years after Dutroux was taken into custody, his trial had yet to begin. Parents of victims continued to shout of a cover-up, and the Telegraph was reporting that: “It was recently learnt that scientific tests on 6,000 hairs found in the [underground dungeon] began only this year.” These tests could, of course, reveal how many victims passed through Dutroux’s chamber of horrors.
If the Marc Dutroux case were some kind of aberration, it would still be a disturbing story for the level of unspeakable corruption and depravity of the Belgian political and law enforcement establishment of which it speaks. Far more disturbing is the fact that it doesn't appear to be an isolated case at all.
Part 3 will follow shortly...