You will forever be the former partner and accomplice of Belgium’s worst criminal, Marc Dutro. However, Michelle Martin will be released on Friday. Many have difficulty with this. “But the punishment ends. The question is: What next?
For Paul Marshall, it is already incomprehensible. On Tuesday, exactly 27 years after his daughter Anne was kidnapped, he received a letter from the Department of Justice. It is reported that Michelle Martin, the ex-wife of Marc Dutro, is completely free from Friday.
He wrote in a Facebook post that the conditions associated with her early release will be removed from then on. Marshall declined to make any further statements to the media that “it will be free…early…”. And Thierry Moreau, Martin’s lawyer, keeps her mouth shut.
The Dutroux case is etched in the memory of anyone who consciously lived the 1990s. Before Martin married Dutro, the couple had already been convicted of multiple rapes in the 1980s. Martin had the drug haloperidol poured into a Slovak girl’s coffee, which Dutroxe later abused.
She married him in prison in 1988 after which they had three more children together. After their release, Dutroux began kidnapping girls. When he ends up behind bars again, Martin learns that two girls, Julie and Melissa, are being held alive in a terrifying basement at Dutros’ home in Marcinelle.
But because she did nothing, the girls eventually died of suffering. Four girls were killed by the Dutro gang: Julie Legion, Melissa Russo, Anne Marshall and Evji Lambrex. In 1996, investigators managed to free Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez in time.
For her part in the facts, Martin was sentenced to thirty years in prison in a criminal trial in Arlon. She was released on parole in 2012. Under a loud protest, she was then housed in a monastery near Namur. When poor Clarice’s sisters moved to Brussels in 2015, Martin was hired by a former judge.
So the terms will expire from Friday. Then her sentence ended completely. The question is where can a woman whose name has been burned so often go? In the meantime, you’ve got a law degree, but will you be able to handle it?
“This is something we often forget about when punishing,” says criminal law professor Tom Vander Pekin (UGent). “Eventually there will also be an end to punishment, but then what? The idea is that someone can then participate in society again, but society is often not ready for that.”
Martin’s case was used to stir up debate in our country about how to deal with people who were given harsh sentences, but released early according to the rules of the system. In 2012 Martin’s parole caused such a stir that Di Rupo’s government decided to make reforming the Legion Act a priority.
“It led to a law we came up with to call Martin’s law in legal slang,” Vander Beken says. “It has made it more difficult to get early release of those who are severely punished or re-offender.” Ironically, because she was previously convicted, Martin is not under her “own” law.
The public outcry over the Dutroux affair is something we remember from the 1990s. During the White March in October 1996, thousands of people took to the streets to demand a better functioning judicial system. Vander Beken maintains that the Dutroux case has changed a lot for victims in criminal cases. Before that, they were almost ignored during the execution of the sentence.
“They weren’t even informed when the offender was allowed to leave prison,” Vander Beken says. “So that’s different now. Victims can now also request conditions before a sentencing court, for example that the offender may not live in their area if he is released early. Before the Dutroux era, they didn’t hear much.”
Vander Beken thinks it makes sense that an issue like that of Michael Martin would raise so much, because it forces society to engage in fundamental debates about law and justice. But it is also clear that the bereaved still feel left out in the cold.
Michele Beauvio, investigative journalist at Paris Match Belgium Who has been following the case since the 1990s, thinks this also makes sense in this case. The trial left him important questions unresolved. “When Julie and Melissa were in the basement, Martin had the key to the house,” says Beauvio. She claims she did not feed them. But if you didn’t, how did those girls last so long? ”
At the trial, according to Beauvoux, her role was very easily dismissed as that of a woman who was under pressure from a psychopathic husband. “She’s been lying since the first day of the investigation,” Beaufort said. “But investigators have not fully explored her statements.”
“At trial they almost defended her, which also led to a less severe sentence. It will remain a problem until the end of her life. Either she decides to tell everything after all, or she hides part of the truth forever.”