Belgium grants release of paedophile killer's ex-wife

Above: Michelle Martin

BRUSSELS - Michelle Martin, ex-wife and accomplice of notorious Belgian paedophile killer Marc Dutroux, won parole Tuesday, halfway through a 30-year sentence, but under orders to "keep her distance" from relatives of victims.

A Belgian court granted a conditional release on Tuesday for Martin, 52, who was convicted in 2004 of helping Dutroux but has been in prison since the case was uncovered in 1996.

She is to enter a convent in Malonne in central Belgium - the court saying she is to stay away from areas where relatives of victims remain.

In a statement read out by Martin's lawyer on leaving the court, the convent said it had accepted the request by the lawyers to "cross paths" with Martin.

The convent said it represents a "challenge" taking her in, the nuns saying they were deeply affected by the terrible suffering of families "who crossed Hell."

"How are we to reconcile these two realities?," said Sister Christine in the statement.

"It won't be easy... our hearts as women are troubled.

"(But) we have chosen to take both sufferings as one," she added.

A former primary school teacher, Dutroux was jailed for life in June 2004 for the kidnap and rape in the 1990s of six young and teenaged girls, four of whom died.

Martin was found guilty of helping Dutroux hold his victims prisoner, and of complicity in the deaths of two eight-year-olds.

The father of one of those victims, Jean-Denis Lejeune, recently said that he held Martin every bit as responsible for the killing by starvation of his daughter Julie, buried alive.

"She knew where they were hidden," he said of Julie and fellow victim Melissa Russo.

"She could have freed them," he underlined.

Tuesday's decision was the fifth time in all that the Belgian courts had considered her application for parole.

She had previously intended to seek refuge in a French convent, but the French justice ministry blocked that bid on the grounds her presence could trigger public disorder.

Leading Belgian centre-right politician Charles Michel said in a statement that the country was "perturbed" by the court's decision and that it was "urgent" to "re-launch the fight" to ensure sentences could be enforced to the maximum.

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