Belgium to let child killer accomplice go abroad to find new home

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 09, 2014 9:09 AM

By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The ex-wife and accomplice of Belgian child killer Marc Dutroux, whose crimes sparked mass protests from a shocked Belgian public, will be allowed to travel abroad with a view to finding a new home, a Belgian court has ruled.

Michelle Martin was arrested in 1996 for helping Dutroux kidnap and rape six girls. Dutroux, killed two of them and left two others to starve to death in a makeshift dungeon.

Martin was released from prison in 2012 on condition that she live in a convent in the south of Belgium. This convent is set to close, according to Belgian media, leaving Martin with the need to find a new place to stay.

A spokesman for prosecutors in the city of Mons said Martin had been allowed to go abroad for a maximum of five days, with practical details still to be discussed.

"The court decision does not state why, but one could imagine that it's to allow for Ms Martin, given the situation of the place where she is currently staying, to look elsewhere for a place to continue her conditional release," the spokesman said on Thursday.

Belgian media reported that Martin is seeking to live with evangelical community "Cristo e la risposta" (Christ is the answer) in Italy, but a preacher for the community told Reuters that was not correct.

"Evangelical believers reached out to us to ask whether she could spend a few days for a spiritual retreat with us," Paul Schafer said.

"It was never the intention for her to stay here permanently," Schafer said, adding that the community could not for now afford to host her.

Martin's lawyer declined to comment.

The Dutroux crimes sparked a public outcry Belgium.

In 1996, 300,000 people dressed in white, the color of innocence, marched through Brussels to demand reforms of the political and judicial systems.

In a sign of how sensitive the case remains, more than 90 percent of Belgians believed Martin was being released too early in 2012, when she had served about half her 30-year term.

The Belgian convent where Martin currently resides is about to move to Brussels because of the old age its inhabitants, Belgian media reported. The convent declined to comment.

Before settling into the Belgian convent, French authorities rejected Martin's bid to move into a convent in France.

Dutroux himself has been denied parole or early release.

(Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Raissa Kasolowsky)