Dutroux lawyer blasts prosecutors

The lawyer for Belgian child rapist Marc Dutroux has criticised prosecutors for ignoring evidence his client was a mere pawn in a wider paedophile ring with possible links to a Satanic cult.

Lawyer Xavier Magnee suggested police might have avoided pursuing certain leads to protect other members of the ring.

In his closing remarks on Tuesday at a 14-week trial that has gripped the country, Magnee rejected the prosecution's case that Dutroux was the leader of a small band of child kidnappers, rapists and murderers.

"We have before us a vast organisation," he told the 12-member jury, which is to give a verdict later this month.

Magnee asked them whether there might have been an "effort on the part of police and politicians to hide...the ring".

Dutroux, 47, and three other suspects are charged with kidnapping and raping six girls and murdering four of them in a series of crimes that shocked the country in the mid-1990s.

He has admitted kidnapping and raping some of the girls, but has denied killing any of them, putting the blame on other defendants such as his ex-wife Michelle Martin.

He has also accused businessman Michel Nihoul, another suspect standing trial, of being the ringleader.

Magnee told the court in Arlon the amount of evidence proving the existence of a wider ring was difficult to ignore.

He also said prosecutors had ignored evidence that might have linked the ring to a Satanic cult called Abrasax suspected of performing human sacrifices.


The theory of a wider ring is held by many Belgians who suspect Dutroux worked under the protection of people in high places until his arrest in August 1996.

Dutroux has insisted he was obliged to work for the ring because he feared for his life.

He has spoken of police officers helping in the kidnapping of two of the victims -- but his reluctance to give details has frustrated his lawyers.

"We are banging our heads against a brick wall," Magnee was quoted as saying in the local tabloid La Derniere Heure on Tuesday. "We ask ourselves why, as it in his every interest to talk."

A separate investigation is looking into the existence of a wider ring but it has yet to produce any results.

Thousands of hairs from a number of unidentified people were found in the dungeon where the victims were held captive in Dutroux's house, he said, adding his client was probably not the only man to have raped the young hostages.