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Paedophile's accomplice and former wife released from prison early

August 29, 2012 ·  , Ian Traynor Brussels


 The accomplice and former wife of a Belgian paedophile and murderer has been allowed to go free after serving half her sentence for involvement in child abductions, rapes and murders that plunged the national judicial system into crisis.

Michelle Martin, the former wife of Marc Dutroux, who received a 30-year sentence for aiding and abetting his kidnapping and molestation of six girls aged eight to 19 in the 1990s, was granted parole at the fourth attempt after serving 16 years in jail.

Four of the girls were murdered. Martin became the target of particular national anger because she allowed two of the girls to starve to death in her care while Dutroux was temporarily in prison.

The ruling on Tuesday by Belgium‘s highest court followed three previous failed attempts to win parole.

A court in the southern town of Mons ruled last month that she could go free on condition that she went into an Ardennes convent for 10 years. Relatives of Dutroux’s victims were outraged and mounted appeals that were overruled on Tuesday.

The Clarisse convent in Malonne in the hill country 50 miles south of Brussels delivered an anguished statement describing the difficulties experienced in deciding whether to offer a haven.

“We were shocked by the terrible suffering of the victims and their families, who have gone through hell,” said the convent’s Mother Superior. “Martin is a human being capable, like all of us, of the worst and the best.”

The successful parole hearings have reopened the wounds in Belgium inflicted by the Dutroux atrocities and the litany of judicial blundering, negligence and alleged connivance and corruption that the case exposed.

The victims’ families argue that Martin has never shown real remorse for the crimes, which entailed kidnapping children, keeping them imprisoned in specially built cellars in Dutroux’s properties, serial torture, sexual abuse and killing.

Jean-Denis Lejeune, the father of one of the murdered girls, told Le Soir newspaper on Tuesday that he was going to write to Martin at the convent.

“She has said she wants to make amends. I would like her to tell the truth about the circumstances surrounding the death of my daughter and that she stop telling lies.”

Judges at the Court of Cassation ruled that there had been nothing improper in the Mons court decision to grant Martin parole and dismissed the objections.

Georges-Henri Beauthier, a lawyer for two of the victims’ families, said: “The law needs to be changed. The law needs to be reviewed in favour of respecting and listening to the victims.”

Given the strength of feeling generated by the case, Martin will need to be afforded special police protection. Le Soir calculated that this will cost the Belgian taxpayer €120,000 a month.


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