Dutroux says he abducted girls with police help

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The Independent Online

A lawyer defending a man who is accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering a string of girls in Belgium said yesterday his client, Marc Dutroux, was part of a criminal network supplying the sex trade.

A lawyer defending a man who is accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering a string of girls in Belgium said yesterday his client, Marc Dutroux, was part of a criminal network supplying the sex trade.

Xavier Magnee rejected claims that Dutroux acted as a lone predator when he kidnapped and raped six girls, four of whom were killed, and accused investigators of a cover-up. Dutroux was, he argued, a "small fish" working for a network with links to the police. Dutroux has admitted kidnapping and abusing the girls, but denies the murder charges.

M. Magnee also highlighted the failure of the authorities to process all the forensic samples discovered in a basement cellar in which Dutroux kept four of his captives.

"I speak not only as a lawyer, but also as a citizen and father," M. Magnee told the court. "He was not the only devil." The lawyer added that some 6,000 hair samples found in the basement cellar where some of the victims were held had led to the discovery of 25 "unknown" DNA profiles.

"There were people in that cellar that are not now accused," he said. The two youngest girls, both aged eight, are thought to have starved to death in the underground cell while Dutroux served a prison sentence for another offence.

M. Magnee said prosecutors had ignored evidence that might have linked the ring to a Satanic cult called Abrasax, which is suspected of performing human sacrifices. Inquiries may not have been pursued in order to protect others, he suggested.

Dutroux, 47, is accused of murdering two teenage girls, kidnap leading to the death of the two eight-year-olds, and other charges of abduction, rape, torture and drug trafficking in 1995 and 1996.

Two of the six girls were rescued in the summer of 1996 and both have testified in the trial, which is due to produce a verdict in two weeks time.

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