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Sex-killers buried two girls alive, court told; Stone faced: Defendants look on during second day of case that shocked a nation.

Prosecutors used the second day in a child-sex and murder trial yesterday to paint a gruesome picture of crimes they claim Marc Dutroux and his co-defendants committed against six young girls in the 1990s.

Dutroux and three alleged accomplices listened as prosecutor Michel Bourlet read from a 74-page statement and presented to the 12-member jury in Arlon a chronological catalogue of offences which have horrified the nation.

'They knew what they were doing,' Bourlet told the court.

Bourlet depicted Dutroux as a dark and sinister figure, the main perpetrator in seeking out six girls to take to his specially built basement holding cell 'where he and others raped, abused and murdered'.

Bourlet described how four of the girls died, saying Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo -two eight-year-old schoolmates -starved to death while imprisoned in the cellar and later buried.

An Marchal, 17 and Eefje Lambrecks, 19, were 'drugged, wrapped in plastic' before being dumped in a backyard grave. 'The victims were not dead when they were buried ... according to their autopsies,' Bourlet said.

Investigators have spent eight years preparing the trial against the four who were arrested in 1996.

Although two of the girls were rescued by police, the case caused public outcry after revelations of inept police work.

Pleas are expected to be entered by the defendants today.

The defence team is expected to suggest that Dutroux was only a small part of a criminal network. Dutroux made similar allegations in a letter sent to the Belgian media on Sunday when he said co-defendant Michel Nihoul -a small-time Brussels businessman with fraud convictions -was an underworld lynchpin.

Nihoul (62) faces charges of kidnapping Laetitia Delhez, one of the rescued girls, who was 14 at the time.

In the dock with Dutroux and Nihoul are Dutroux's ex-wife, Michelle Martin who is accused of conspiracy in the kidnapping, and a friend Michel Lelievre who faces kidnapping, rape and drugs possession charges.

CAPTION(S):

Michel Lelievre stares out from behind protective glass as the charges faced by Marc Dutroux and his co-defendants are outlined to the court
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 3, 2004
Words:345
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