Belgium has unveiled a memorial garden on the site where notorious serial killer Marc Dutroux imprisoned his young victims. The “house of horrors,” in which Dutroux tortured and raped children, was demolished last year in the city of Charleroi. The parents of two of his victims, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, were present to inaugurate the tree-filled garden adorned with a mural of a child watching a kite soar into the sky. Lead architect Georgios Millis described the memorial as a representation of life rather than death. Dutroux, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004, was found guilty of murder, kidnapping, and rape involving six girls and young women in 1995-1996.
The red-brick building in the Marcinelle suburb of Charleroi gained infamy when Dutroux led police to two kidnapped teenage girls, aged 14 and 12, who were found cowering in the basement in August 1996. The investigation into Belgium’s worst paedophile crimes revealed that eight-year-olds Julie and Melissa had also been held captive at the property for months. Their bodies were later discovered buried at another location, and a postmortem revealed they had been starved to death.
Public outrage grew as it became known that police had missed several clues and that Dutroux had been released from jail in 1992 after serving only three years of a 13-year sentence for the abduction and rape of five girls. Gino Russo, the father of victim Melissa, expressed his dissatisfaction with unanswered questions in the case and requested that the basement be preserved for potential future investigations. The authorities agreed, and the dungeon remains intact underground.
Dutroux abandoned his bid for parole in 2020 after a psychiatric report deemed him still dangerous. His former wife Michelle Martin, who was found guilty of aiding him, and a co-conspirator have already been released from prison. Another house in the village of Sars-la-Buissiere, where the bodies of Julie and Melissa were discovered, was also demolished this year.