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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pedophilia Victims Found in Belgium

NEUFCHATEAU, Belgium -- Investigators pooled their evidence in a hunt for more missing children Monday as Belgium reacted in horror to the discovery of the buried corpses of two 8-year-old child sex victims.


Excavations for bodies at various houses around the southern city of Charleroi were put on hold as police met to discuss the next moves in a widening pedophile inquiry which has prompted furious victims' parents to accuse investigators of bungling.


High among police priorities was to determine the fate of six children still missing after a series of disappearances in Belgium dating back to 1989.


Police unearthed the bodies of Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo from three-meter deep graves Saturday, having been led to them by father-of-three Marc Dutroux, 39, who has been in detention since Tuesday.


Investigators twice visited the property, belonging to Dutroux in the village of Sars-La-Buissiere, while the girls were still alive in detention there but failed to find them.


Dutroux has denied responsibility for the girls' deaths. He told police they died of starvation in late February or early March 1996 while he was serving a four-month jail sentence for theft.


He has, however, admitted killing accomplice Bernard Weinstein, whose body was found with theirs, out of anger that he had allowed Julie and Melissa to die.


Public anger has been fuelled by the revelation that Dutroux, jailed for 13 years in 1989 for rape and child abuse, had been freed three years later by then justice minister Melchior Wathelet against the advice of the public prosecutor.


Victor Hissel, the lawyer representing the parents of Julie and Melissa, slammed the judicial system's lenient treatment of child sex offenders in remarks to reporters Sunday.


"Julie and Melissa are victims of organized pedophilia, sacrificed by the skepticism which has reigned in Belgium toward groups of evil-doers who are capable of kidnapping children ... and sexually abusing them," he said.


Gino Russo, Melissa's father, told Belgian television he hoped the deaths would lead to a change in the law. "I hope Julie and Melissa didn't die for nothing," he said.


While recriminations continued over the latest deaths, police also faced the task of finding teenagers An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks, whom Dutroux and some of his associates admitted to abducting at the port of Ostend last year.


Their fate is still unknown and Belgian radio speculated that they might have been sold abroad.


At least 15 children have disappeared in Belgium in the past six years. Seven have now been found dead, six are still missing and only two -- Laetitia Delhez and Sabine Dardenne -- have been recovered alive.


Police rescued Laetitia, 14, and Sabine, 12, from a makeshift concrete dungeon at another Dutroux property last Thursday. But the euphoria at their release quickly turned to horror with the weekend's gruesome discoveries.


Dutroux and another man, Michel Lelievre, were charged Friday with abduction and illegal imprisonment of children after the police rescue of the two girls.


Dutroux's second wife Michelle Martin, also held since last Tuesday, was formally charged with being an accomplice in the abduction and illegal imprisonment of children, assistant magistrate Jean-Paul Pavanello told reporters Monday.


Two other men who have not yet been formally charged were to appear in court Tuesday.





Police, who removed videos from the house where Laetitia and Sabine were found, refused to be drawn on the possibility of a national pedophile ring even though the rescued girls had been sexually abused.