The place is associated with atrocious crimes that shook an entire country. A memorial garden was inaugurated on Tuesday in Charleroi in honor of the victims of Marc Dutroux, on the site of the house where the latter kidnapped several girls and adolescents.
The inauguration is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the presence of the parents of Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo, the two girls raped and kidnapped in this house in 1995-96, before their bodies were found buried in the garden of another property of the criminal.
We ended up calling it “rue de Dutroux.”
These parents were associated by the city of Charleroi with the commemorative project planned as “a place of calm”. It is not a sculpture made of inert material, but a garden of trees and flowers, “living organisms,” explains the Walloon municipality. Murielle has lived in the neighborhood for more than 40 years and she is happy that the house has been razed. “This ugly house has been forgotten and is now a garden, a small corner of paradise.“.
“It feels good to move forward“says Patricia, a local resident. “We ended up calling this street “rue Dutroux”. I was 19 when it happened, now I’m 50. This white, this garden is symbolic. It will calm the neighborhood“.
Carine, another local resident, thinks the same. “It’s much nicer. Passing through this house we couldn’t take it anymore, it brought back bad memories.“, she says.
On the corner of rue de Philippeville, in the suburb of Marcinelle, where the “house of horror” was located, several species of plants were planted at the foot of a pristine white mural in which a child watches a kite spinning in the sky . The place received the name “between earth and sky.”
“Les pignons des maisons qui form l’angle ont été couverts de briques blanches en terre cuite émaillée, de façon a accrocher très bien la lumière pour avoir un mémorial brilliant”, explains to AFP Georgios Millis, the architect who directed the project.
Warehouses preserved from demolition
In June 1995, Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo were kidnapped in the Liège region. They were found dead in August 1996 in Sars-la-Buissière, in the garden of a property that was also destroyed last summer.
The investigation established that the two girls had been kidnapped for many months in the basement of Marcinelle’s house, where they were raped, before being deprived of care and food to the point of losing their lives.
The modest red brick house, the scene of Dutroux’s worst crimes, burst into all Belgian homes when television showed on August 15, 1996, the criminal taking the police there to remove two other kidnapped teenagers, Laetitia, from their hiding place. Delhez and Sabine Dardenne.
Sentenced in 2004 to life imprisonment, Marc Dutroux, now 66, was found guilty of kidnapping, abducting and raping six girls and young women in 1995-96. Sabine and Laetitia, found two days after his arrest, are the only two victims who have survived.
Gino Russo and Jean-Denis Lejeune, parents of Julie and Mélissa, arrived at the venue to attend the inauguration. Gino Russo brought with him a floral decoration. He spoke first in front of the assembly. “I want to thank the city and their teams for how they did it. We wanted to save the basements and the mayor understood it very well,” he explains. “For us it was important to protect this hiding place, where Julie and Mélissa were. It is important for the investigation file.”
Jean-Denis Lejeune also participated, first of all also thanking the city. “Despite everything we have been able to report, these cases continue to happen. Pedophilia, child abuse, that is what we are fighting and it was important to be able to leave a mark to say that it existed and that it still exists. Please, those who have the power , that they use it to eradicate this problem,” he implored. “We must save these children, innocent beings.”