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22. DUTROUX AND THE BRIEFCASE
Before getting stuck into this topic, a brief discussion as to how this, and most of the rest of the book, is arranged. We rely almost entirely on the official police case files. By quoting extensively from these files I will prevent detractors from dismissing this book as just another conspiracy theory.
The subject of this chapter is very interesting for me. This is because, as I have said, I simply do not believe that Dutroux’s involvement with making videos was limited to three Slovakian girls that he abused and raped in 1995 and 1996, plus his rape victims of the 1980’s. Dutroux’s obsessive behaviour of filming his victims (he even rented equipment to do this in the 1980’s, only going to buy his own video camera when the prices had dropped, in 1992) means, for me at least, that this is frankly not credible.
In line with this, I find it astonishing that no videos of Julie, Mélissa, An, Eefje, Sabine or Laetitia were ever found. Why should Dutroux refrain from filming these particular victims, even though he had one or more of them in his power for months at a time? It just does not make sense! In my view, therefore, suspicions of a cover up concerning Dutroux’s videos, had to be taken seriously.
Suspicion is not proof, however. Was evidence of this to be found in the case files on the DVD’s? I decided to take a very hard look to find evidence to support this, and settled down to what I thought would be a very lengthy task. It did not take me very long at all.
This story unfolded on 18 September 1996, almost exactly one month after the arrest of Dutroux. It began with the discovery of an abandoned briefcase, found on a street corner in the Belgian village of Flawinne, near the market town of Namur. The finder, a member of the public, opened the briefcase to try to ascertain its owner. What he found was a collection of documents. One of these documents, however, was a handwritten letter, whose contents surprised and scared him. He immediately contacted the Dutroux investigators in Neufchâteau. If we read the letter, it is not difficult to see why.
10 July 1996
Very dear friend
Everything has been in place for several months now (what you know about under the new house in Dave). Nothing has moved; no smell and no cracks. Your contacts with my network in Romania are in place, and the price and freshness of age is a big advantage compared to The West. My protector in the region (Guy M.) has guaranteed to buy, at a very good price, the cassettes with children as performers for his establishments.
As promised, I expect to hear from you. My bank accounts are frozen. I have no more cash. Pay into my bank account an advance for the cassettes. As agreed, my apartments are equipped to receive our Romanian ‘friends.’ You can also count on the discretion of my two sons for the work in your region. With regard to the material, they know about it and can be counted on.
Their business is an excellent cover.
Monsieur Marc Dutroux
(Signature of François Leyens)
When I ran across this letter, I did not register more than mild interest. Surely this was a fabrication of one kind or another? The Dutroux file contains several of them. Twisted minds who got some form of kick out of writing a counterfeit letter, or make stupid telephone calls. This was in addition to other time wasters such as clairvoyants (‘I want you to tell the parents of Julie and Mélissa that they have no need to worry; I have spoken to them and they are both very happy. They are on the moon.’), or the downright insane.
I had little doubt that the police would have shared my own initial scepticism, but I knew they would keep on investigating. This was a murder enquiry, after all, and you never know. The idea that one of Dutroux’s partners in crime might have left incriminating information in the street, however, seemed just a little far-fetched.
One line that did intrigue me, however, was Guy M. In Belgium there is only one Guy M. that comes to mind. This is Guy Mathot, senior Socialist Party politician, mayor of Seraing (a large industrial community near Liège) and king of dodgy business deals for the last twenty years. Few Belgian politicians bore a greater stench of corruption than Guy Mathot. He died, incidentally, in February 2005. I, for one, will not miss him. I kept on reading.
The first thing the police did was to establish an inventory of the contents of the entire briefcase. These were rather interesting. They pointed to the briefcase belonging indeed to François Leyens. They also pointed to him having considerable business dealings with Eastern Europe. One witness confirmed that Leyens employed Romanians illegally. More significantly he had asked another woman if she wanted to go into business with him, opening a brothel. Leyens was also penniless, following a painful bankruptcy. His address was rue de Lustin 156, Dave (Namur). Dave is the name of the small village where Leyens lived.
On 29 September 1996, eleven days after receiving the suitcase the Neufchâteau detectives interviewed François Leyens himself. The length of the interval between finding the briefcase, and interviewing Leyens, reflected the fact that this was simply a routine enquiry. It was almost certainly a forgery so was unlikely to come to anything, but nevertheless needed to be followed up. One factor which greatly increased the chances of a forgery, incidentally was the fact that it had come to light after Dutroux’s arrest in August 1996, and subsequent notoriety (even if the letter itself was dated June 1996). Finding the letter before 14 August 1996, the date of the final arrest, would have been vastly more significant.
Returning to the interview of Leyens, Yes, he did recognize the briefcase as being his, but could not remember it being stolen. He did say, however, that he had been a victim of burglary on two separate occasions, both of which he had reported to the police. The first was August or September 1995 and the second on 2 January 1996 (these two burglaries had indeed been reported to the police on or around these dates, in line with his claims) He assumed, therefore, that the briefcase had been stolen on one of these two occasions.
Leyens denied writing any such letter to Marc Dutroux, or anyone else. The letter was a malicious falsehood, he claimed. Someone had it in for him, and he had a few suggestions to give to the police. The handwriting was not even his, he exclaimed. His wife, from whom he was separated, also stated that it was not his handwriting.
At this point the investigation was officially transferred. It was no longer part of the Dutroux investigation handled by Neufchâteau. It was a hunt for the writer of the forged letter, who was guilty of malicious falsehood. One thing led the police to believe that they would be able to track down the writer. This was the fact (which was universally agreed by all concerned parties, including Leyens himself) that the letter writer had intimate knowledge of Leyen’s family, and business arrangements. The references to his two sons, and his apartments in Dave, were spot on.
Over the next two months, the ex-business associate that Leyens mentioned was interviewed. He denied all knowledge of the letter, and it was clear that his handwriting was completely different. Different members of the family of Leyens were also interviewed, and made to provide handwriting samples. These were also negative.
One interesting revelation came from one of those people interviewed, and from whom handwriting samples had been taken. On 11 February 1998, Jacques Delmée, in an official statement, said that Leyens had helped sell one of Delmée’s vans in Romania, either in 1993 or 1994. In this context the Romania reference, contained in the letter, was intriguing.
After a period of time, however, the police felt that they were getting nowhere. So on 27 February 1997 the Namur investigators (the case had been transferred to the local town once it was decided that this had nothing to do with Dutroux) employed the services of a graphologist to analyze the original letter, and compare it with other samples. This was a routine step, but one that would produce a dramatic, and totally unexpected, turn of events.
After meticulously examining all the handwriting samples that had been taken during the investigation, and requesting additional samples when he needed further confirmation, the graphologist Gilberte Pochet delivered her final conclusions on 4 May 1997. Her findings were unambiguous and couched in terms that brooked no doubt. The letter had been written by François Leyens himself. This opinion was reinforced by the fact that Leyens, when he had been told to give samples of his handwriting, had deliberately changed his style. This attempt at deception was easily detected by the graphologist. Why should he do that?
This really was a turnaround. Suddenly, what seemed too good to be true, that vital information about Dutroux had been found, via a briefcase found in the street, became a real possibility. François Leyens had genuinely written a letter to Marc Dutroux. It was either an important breakthrough into Dutroux’s criminal activities, or François Leyens was insane.
The Leyens enquiry then went back to Neufchâteau. Recall that the briefcase had been sent to the Dutroux investigators on 18 September 1996, when investigating magistrate Connerotte was in charge. It had very rapidly been sent to Leyen’s local magistrate, when it seemed clear that the police were dealing with a forgery. On 28 April 1998 the file, following the graphologist’s explosive conclusions, was sent back to the investigating magistrate in Neufchâteau. Unfortunately the Dutroux investigation was now under the dead hand of Langlois.
This now illustrates a major fault, which has been alluded to before, in the Belgian criminal investigation system. An investigating magistrate is in many respects like the conductor of an orchestra. The orchestra comprises all the different police teams that have been placed at the investigating magistrate’s disposal. The system works as follows: the investigating magistrate divides up the investigation into smaller tasks. Each police unit carried out this task, and nothing else, and then reports back to the investigating magistrate. There can be no question of a police unit exceeding the terms of their brief; that is a hanging offence in Belgium. As we have seen, the simple act of a policeman phoning a dog-handler without prior permission, can be enough to get him thrown off an investigation.
At this point the British system, in which an investigation of this type is handled by a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), whose performance is subject to weekly review by senior officers, seems infinitely preferable. This British system works well. During the Holly and Jessica murder investigation the Senior Investigating Officer was clearly finding it hard to cope, and senior officers felt that the investigation was losing focus. The SIO was replaced, and from then on the investigation continued more smoothly. Contrast this with Belgium, where it is very difficult to have an investigating magistrate removed on grounds of incompetence.
What is outrageous, but not entirely unexpected, is that Langlois then proceeded to do absolutely nothing with the Leyens enquiry. The police knew about him, but were forbidden to do anything whatsoever without the prior approval of Langlois. Langlois, recall, had his own hypothesis. Dutroux was a sole predator. I have little doubt that he chose not to investigate Leyens further ‘because it did not fit his hypothesis.’
Langlois’ behaviour here is doubly inexcusable because he had plenty to go on, based on the contents of the briefcase. This contained a great deal of information about Leyens’ activities in Eastern Europe. Not Romania, I hasten to say, but other countries in the region. If Langlois had bothered to pay attention, he would have noticed the following entry in the inventory of the briefcase contents.
49. One document ‘convention of association’ between HANDEL INTERNATIONAL and VD KOVOS TEPLICE
This is extremely interesting because Handel International is Leyens’ own company, and VD Kovos is a respectable company in the small Czech town of Teplice (population 50,000). Teplice is, however, the centre of the Czech sex industry, together with the capital Prague. Teplice’s location near the German border, means that it is a magnet to prostitutes, from all over Eastern Europe, as well as Germans who travel there for sex.
But Teplice, despite being a very small town, also features very prominently in the Dutroux investigation. It was visited by Dutroux, Lelièvre and the sex-mad Greek Diakostavrianos. It was also the place, you recall, where Dutroux made a deal with a man to make a film of naked children. The only paedophile video, made by Dutroux, that was found during the entire investigation, was filmed in Teplice.
It is worth noting that, although the Belgian police did visit the house which was under construction (they assumed this was the one referred to in his letter), they did not search it. They visited it when they interviewed Leyens following the discovery of the briefcase. This was easy to do because it adjoined Leyens’ house, and was on his property, in the village of Dave. At this time, of course, the police had no reason to suspect that the letter was anything other than a forgery.
Once the letter had been declared genuine, a search warrant would have been in order. That house should have been meticulously examined from top to bottom. In a similar vein, surely exhaustive questioning of Leyens about the precise nature of his business with Eastern Europe, his visits, and whom he met, would have been in order? Should not Dutroux himself have been asked if he knew Leyens? I do not think it is too much to expect Langlois to follow this up!
It should now be dawning on the reader that Jacques Langlois was totally inadequate as an investigating magistrate. He never followed the Teplice lead, for example, to try to identify the man that granted Dutroux access to the naked children. He never followed up any lead that might have led to Dutroux not being a sole predator! Now if this was all there was to this Leyens story, it would already be gross incompetence on the part of Langlois. But it is in fact worse. Far worse.
To realize just how bad, let us go back to the moment the file was sent back to Langlois, following the graphologist’s report. The transfer was accompanied by a letter from the Namur Investigating Magistrate.
Note from the investigating magistrate, which accompanies the communication of the case file.
This file was transferred to us from Neufchâteau, after it seemed that there was no link with the Dutroux enquiry, instead being a question of forgery and false documents which belonged to our legal district (discovery of the briefcase in Flawinne).
In her role as expert in handwriting, Madame POCHET concluded on 4 May 1997 that the fateful letter had been written by François LEYENS.
Interviewed by ourselves, Mr LEYENS has obviously denied writing the letter, and has given us the names of two other people who bore a grudge against him.
We have interviewed them both ourselves and asked then for samples of their handwriting.
Without even referring to the expert, we consider that they can be ruled out (see our note of 17 April 1998).
Today, we draw the attention of Monsieur the State Prosecutor on PV NA45.12.100228/98 of 13 January 1998, to which is attached a copy of PV NA40.11.10522/96 of 18 August 1996. Both refer to the possible presence of Marc DUTROUX at the home of François LEYENS, or in the neighbourhood.
We therefore feel obliged to communicate the file with an aim to returning it to Neufchâteau, with our withdrawal from the case, pending discussions between the two State Prosecutors’ offices.
Drawn up in our offices on 28 April 1998
The Investigating Magistrate
(Signature Guy COMELIAU)
This is just another formal handover letter, except for three lines which immediately jump out.
NA45.12.100228/98 of 13 January 1998, to which is attached a copy of PV NA40.11.10522/96 of 18 August 1996. Both refer to the possible presence of Marc DUTROUX At the home of François LEYENS, or in the neighbourhood.
This is Belgian legal-speak for references to the existence, apart from this story of the briefcase, to two independent witness statements linking Leyens to Dutroux! The fact that additional possible links exist between Leyens, which have nothing to do with the briefcase, add strength to the theory that the latter does indeed contain valuable information about Dutroux. Let us now look at the precise nature of these two additional elements.
The first one dates from 18 August 1996, the day after the discovery of the bodies of Julie and Mélissa. This was the day that two police officers interviewed a grandmother, Monique André, at her address at rue de Lustin 86, Dave. She gave a very detailed, and credible description of a man, who looked exactly like Marc Dutroux, and who had tried to kidnap her granddaughter. This happened at a date in between 1 April 1996 and 31 May 1996, on a Saturday morning. Her granddaughter, aged 11 at the time, had gone out of the house to fetch the post in the letter box. A white van, travelling along the road at high speed, suddenly stopped in front of the house, and positioned itself right against the hedge, allowing no room for a pedestrian to pass by between the hedge and the van. It was a large van and the two rear doors were already open. The grandmother, intrigued, came out and told her granddaughter to go inside. The grandmother spoke to the driver. He justified his abrupt halt by the need to put into place something that was moving round in the back of the van. She was certain that the driver was Marc Dutroux.
At the very least this should have prompted questions to Marc Dutroux himself on the subject of Leyens, or even the village of Dave. The home of the Grandmother is rue de Lustin 86. The home of François Leyens is rue de Lustin 156, about 500 metres away. Of course, this witness does not point to Leyens being the reason why Dutroux was in the vicinity in the first place, even assuming she really saw him. All this does is strengthen the case for continuing investigations into Leyens (although this should of course have been the case, even without additional testimony). But the second witness, who came forward to make a statement, provided much more damning testimony.
The second statement was from a woman called Hélène Samain, and was made on 13 January 1998.
(…) On the subject of DUTROUX, when I saw him last year on television, I was struck. I believe that I recognized him for having frequented LEYENS, an entrepreneur aged about 60 living in DAVE, near the Tailfer dam. It is the final house before the sluice gates. I saw DUTROUX, alone, on the grounds of the property, getting out of a white van and smiling at me as I passed. It was a Saturday morning, some time, even years, before the discovery of Julie and Mélissa.
All these elements are, to say the least, striking. The police themselves summed it up, after verifying that the house pointed out by Hélène Samain, did indeed correspond to ‘our’ Leyens. This is their summary
Madame SAMAIN believes that she saw, a few years ago, one Saturday morning, DUTROUX on the property of LEYENS François, at DAVE, rue de Lustin 156, in a white van. One Saturday morning of April-May 1996, Madame ANDRE certifies that DUTROUX tried to kidnap her grandchild with a white van at a distance of 500 metres from LEYENS home. LEYENS cannot explain the discovery of a handwritten letter, addressed to DUTROUX, which was found in his briefcase, which disappeared from his cellar and discovered on a public road in FLAWINNE.
We add, of course, that the graphologist was confident that Leyens had indeed written the letter. It also worth adding that the village of Dave is at a considerable distance from any of Dutroux’s houses. It is not possible, for example, for the witnesses to have recognized Dutroux because he regularly passed by to do his shopping.
An enormous amount for Langlois to go on, I think, following the re-attachment of the Leyens line of enquiry to the main Dutroux investigation. Everything at this stage was pointing to Leyens’ involvement with Dutroux, and locations in Belgium at which children and video cassettes would be made available. There was also follow-up leads in Eastern Europe, and particularly Teplice. Langlois, however, chose to do nothing whatsoever.
What is even more galling is that the police had routinely checked the Leyens’ criminal record. Apart from Leyens’ convictions for fraud, criminal damage and forgery, he had received a suspended prison sentence, in Dinant, on 9 July 1951 for… a sexual offence against a child aged less than 16 years! It beggars belief that no follow-up enquiries were made, but this is precisely what happened. Leyens was never even asked about it.
At this point, it is worth recalling again the mantra that had been chanted by the entire Belgian establishment (with very few exceptions). The investigation into Dutroux took eight long years, because Jacques Langlois was so thorough, and left no stone unturned. This is just the first element in my trail which shows Langlois’ incompetence, ignorance and possible corruption. At first I always believed that Langlois was clean. But is it possible for any human being to be so pigheaded, ignorant and stupid, without being corrupt?
It is worth pondering on possible reasons why Langlois decided not to follow up this lead, apart from pure incompetence. If he had followed it up, it may very well have led Langlois to the door of one of Belgium’s most powerful, and corrupt politicians, Guy Mathot. Even if Guy M. is hardly proof of this, this is the very first name that comes to mind, for every Belgian. The possibility that it was Guy Mathot would definitely have had to be taken seriously. Especially Guy Mathot, who was a byword for corruption even by Belgian standards, was almost certainly involved in running some extremely dubious brothels.
Maybe Langlois did not want to take the risk? Maybe this is not the explanation, but there has to be an answer somewhere! Even if I accept that Langlois is the biggest idiot ever to hold the position of investigating magistrate, even he cannot be that stupid, can he? In any case, a Dutroux that is distributing films of children is definitely not a sole predator. A very distressing possibility for Langlois, and his hypothesis, I am sure.
I also find this entire episode (the discovery of a letter implicating Dutroux in a trade of paedophile videos, followed up by inaction on the part of the Belgian authorities) to be entirely in line with the atmosphere of suspicion generated by the way Dutroux’s videos were treated. At the very least I hope that I have already nailed the lie that no stone was left unturned. That is just a sick parody of the truth.
This is only the first example, however! There are countless others, but they cannot all be included in this book. This book describes the real howlers. The ones that make you seriously wonder if the authorities would do anything, even if they found a video of Dutroux raping a child in the middle of the Grand Place in Brussels.