Long before the actions of Jeffrey Epstein became public knowledge, Belgians were aware of a different pedophile with ties to the wealthy and powerful.
Marc Dutroux, born on November 6, 1956, is the most prominent serial killer to hail from Belgium. Dutroux began his criminal career as an auto thief and pimp, but gradually turned to rape and murder. In conjunction with his accomplices, he is responsible for having kidnapped and sexually abused multiple young girls, and murdering at least eleven individuals. He likewise had ties to human trafficking, allegedly selling many girls as sex slaves.
The most shocking aspect of the story, however, was the plodding and suspicious nature of the Belgian justice system’s response to Dutroux’s villainy. Despite Belgian police being aware of Marc Dutroux since 1986, and Dutroux having been convicted of five abduction-rapes, he served only a three-year stint in prison. As Dutroux’s activities intensified in subsequent years, law enforcement appeared disinterested in following leads. Even Marc Dutroux’s own mother came forward with claims that her son kept underage girls in one of his homes, but police chose to ignore the lead. When Marc Dutroux was brought to justice in 1996, it was revealed that police had been aware of his activities for over a year.
Even more bizarrely, upon Dutroux’s arrest, one of his accomplices held a lavish party attended by many Belgian government officials and law enforcement officers. At the same time, allegations from some of Dutroux’s surviving victims emerged that his human trafficking extended to government officials, fueling concerns of cooperation between the justice system and Marc Dutroux. Victims further asserted that Marc Dutroux was a mere patsy of sorts for powerful Belgian interests, such as politicians, businesspeople, judges, and law enforcement. Fueling these theories, the initial judge presiding over Dutroux’s case, Jean-Marc Connerotte, was fired without explanation. In addition, twenty witnesses tied to the case met with unexplained deaths, many of which were homicides without clear motive. This appearance of injustice led to one of the largest protests in post-World War II Europe, with 250,000 individuals demonstrating in Brussels. Anger in Belgium was so palpable that an estimated third of individuals with Dutroux as a surname changed it.
Today, Marc Dutroux is continuing to serve his life sentence. His pre-parole hearing was delayed in light of the ongoing pandemic. Given polls showing the vast majority of Belgians supported the death penalty for Dutroux (it was abolished just before his arrest), it is likely that any possible release will be met with controversy. If anything, Belgians continue to believe he was treated with too much leniency already.
Gabriela Galindo, Coronavirus delays infamous paedophile Marc Dutroux’s pre-parole exam. The Brussels Times. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from https://www.brusselstimes.com/all-news/belgium-all-news/109873/coronavirus-delays-infamous-paedophile-marc-dutroux-pre-parole-exam.
No author listed. Belgium prepares for ‘trial of the century.’ Al Jezeera. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2004/2/29/belgium-prepares-for-trial-of-the-century.
O’Neill, Bill. (2020). Interesting Stories for Curious People. LAK Publishing.
Jenkins, John Phillip. Marc Dutroux. Brittanica. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marc-Dutroux.