Suicide twist to abuse debacle

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the men leading the criminal investigation into Marc Dutroux, the paedophile accused of a string of child murders in Belgium, has committed suicide, raising new questions about the country's biggest ever political and legal scandal.

Interestingly, public prosecutor Hubert Massa, who shot himself in his study at home on Tuesday, also investigated the still unsolved mafia-style murder of the French-speaking Socialist Party leader and former deputy prime minister Andre Cools, who was gunned down in Liege in 1991.

Mr Massa's death, for which colleagues could provide no explanation, is the latest in a chain of suspicious events to cast doubt on the conduct of the Belgian police and criminal justice system.

Mr Massa had been working for the Liege prosecutor's office for 18 years. "He left no note and we don't understand why he did it," a spokesman said.

Another source confirmed that the death was by suicide.

As one of a team of magistrates, Mr Massa investigated the deaths of four young girls abducted by Dutroux, a convicted paedophile who is still awaiting trial. The bodies of the four were found buried on his property and a further two girls were rescued alive.

The handling of the Dutroux case sent shockwaves through Belgium when the extent of police and judicial bungling became known. It emerged that policemen had visited Dutroux's home but failed to act despite hearing the sound of children crying.

Claims of police and judicial complicity triggered a loss of confidence in the judicial system, provoking work stoppages and a demonstration which brought around 350,000 people onto the streets of Brussels.

The case reached new heights of farce last year when Dutroux, labelled public enemy number one, spent a day on the run after overpowering his yawning guards and escaping from custody in a stolen car.