Jury out in Dutroux murder trial
ARLON, Belgium -- The jury in the child rape and murder trial that has transfixed Belgium has retired to consider its verdict on Marc Dutroux.
The eight women and four men were briefly called together by the judge on Monday before they were sent out at the end of the three-month trial in Arlon, in southeast Belgium.
The jury will stay in a police barracks during deliberations, The Associated Press reported.
Dutroux, his former wife and two accomplices are charged with kidnapping and raping six girls during the mid-1990s.
Four of the six victims died while they were held captive in Dutroux's house, and he faces murder charges in those cases.
He is also charged with murdering an alleged accomplice.
Dutroux, 47, has pleaded guilty to rape and kidnapping but denies murder, insisting that he was part of a wider pedophile ring.
He claimed during the trial that the sex ring which he said directed him included two policemen.
In a final courtroom appeal on Thursday, the former electrician expressed "sincere regret" for what he did.
Dutroux told the court: "I am not a murderer." He said he nevertheless bore responsibility for the four victims who died because he "did not protect them enough," AP reported.
All the bodies were discovered on Dutroux's properties after his arrest in August 1996. The two surviving victims, Laetitia Delhez, then 14, and Sabine Dardenne, then 12, were rescued from a basement prison in his house.
It was unclear if Dutroux's co-defendants would make closing statements.
Jailed in the past for a series of violent rapes, including attacks on minors, Dutroux faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment on his present charges.
CNN's Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers reported earlier that Belgians were appalled by the "heinous nature of the crimes" and the "ham-handedness of the investigation."
The authorities "at one point allowed Marc Dutroux to escape; additionally rival police investigations concealed evidence," Rodgers said.
"Lastly, and most troubling, is evidence from Dutroux and his accomplices that they are part of a larger network of European pedophiles which they allege goes into the higher echelons of the Belgian police and government.
"While those allegations are unproven, Belgians are troubled by them, and few are convinced the entire truth of the Dutroux affair will ever come to light."