Parents were falsely accused...

Nathalie Mahy and Stacy Lemmens were found just a couple of hundred metres from the place where they disappeared

lesfilles_APBelgium: For 19 days the nation held its breath.
Step-sisters Stacy and Nathalie shared troubled childhoods. Together, they also shared death...

Haunted by the memory of the Marc Dutroux case, Belgium desperately hoped for a miracle.

But that miracle failed to occur: the bodies of Nathalie Mahy and her seven-year-old step-sister Stacy Lemmens were found dumped in a storm water system on Wednesday 28 June.

Their bodies were found just a couple of hundred metres from the Liège pub where they disappeared on the night of 9 June.

The discovery was, at least, an end to the mystery: what had happened to the two girls?

Earlier, Nathalie's father, Didier Mahy, had said in a television interview: "Nathalie is still alive. I feel it". But his feelings appear to have deceived him.

All four parents of the step-sisters have now been placed under the care of victim support workers and have refused to offer statements until they come to terms with the deaths of the girls.

The parents were able to view the bodies on Thursday morning and say their final farewells.


Troubled childhoods

Stacy had lived at 10 addresses in her short life and never knew her biological mother, Christiane Grianziero, who separated from 35-year-old steel worker Thierry Lemmens shortly after Stacy's birth.

Stacy and her eight-year-old brother moved with their father from one address and step-mother to another.

Grianziero was released from jail in April after serving time for drugs and prostitution crimes.

Child welfare officers kept tabs on the family, which eventually linked up with the family of unemployed mother Cathérine Dizier.

Dizier and Thierry did not live together officially; their apartments were in the same building. But in reality, they had a relationship and Stacy's step-brother, Sylvain, was born last year.

Dizier also brought three other children into the family, including Nathalie, who in the past year appeared to have regained structure in her life after the separation of her parents in 2001, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported.

Father Didier Mahy gained custody of his five children last year, but the three youngest still went to their mother on Wednesdays and Fridays. Previously, Nathalie had only spent her weekends with her father.

Mahy claims the custody ruling was the turning point in Nathalie's life, stressing that she had started improving at school and was benefiting from greater structure in her life.


Lured away?

Justice authorities suspect that the two girls were lured to a place where the kidnapper or kidnappers would not easily be disturbed.

But only the culprit or culprits can give an accurate account of the girls' final moments and the route they took the night they disappeared.

Police have ruled out the possibility that the girls were victims of an accident. But they were not shot or stabbed. Instead, it is suspected they were strangled.

An autopsy on 28 June was to give the exact cause of death and whether the girls were sexually abused.

Initial indications are that Nathalie was sexually abused: she was found with her jeans rolled down to her knees and her pants pushed to one side.

Commercial broadcaster VTM has also cited sources claiming the autopsy revealed Nathalie was "very badly" abused.

It also said new tips have been given to police claiming the only suspect in the case harassed the girls a couple of hours before they disappeared.


Escape route

There are two likely routes from the pub where the girls disappeared to where their bodies were found.

Both offer benefits for a kidnapper, leading either via a couple of streets with houses to an open terrain that leads to the railway or via a playground to an isolated and dark sports area and construction site.

Main suspect and convicted child sex offender Abdallah Ait Oud was familiar with the terrain. On June 13, he turned himself in after seeing his photo on television. He denied having anything to do with the case and claimed to have an alibi. However, it was established that he was in the cafe that night. Moreover, he has a history of child abuse, for which he was incarcerated. He was released in December 2005 from a mental hospital after raping two minors, one being his niece. He never admitted to his previous crimes.
He was remanded in police custody again on 29 June.

While further investigations are necessary, it appears likely that once the kidnapper lured the girls away, he took them over the railway line and dumped them in the underground drainage system.

Due to heavy rains, the bodies might have been carried in the direction of a nearby bridge and an area so overgrown with scrub that police had difficulty accessing it.

The bodies were eventually found in the drains underneath metal roofs. The area had already been searched by police, but the undergrowth along the railway was cut back, allowing police to comb the area more intensively.


Suspicious letter

Dutch newspaper 'De Telegraaf' received an anonymous letter on 28 June containing detailed information about the area where the girls' bodies were found.

The envelope contained two maps, with a hand-written text: "Probable location Stacy + Nathalie". A cross marks the spot on the maps where the girls were predicted to be found.

Despite the fact the girls were found 2km further away along a railway, the newspaper said the letter implies that the sender was the killer or was aware of what the killer or killers had done.

The newspaper has handed the letter — which was posted in Rotterdam on Tuesday — over to Amsterdam police. Belgian federal police have asked Amsterdam colleagues to send the letter to Liège with priority.


Sympathy and flowers

A flow of outrage and sympathy has been expressed across Belgium after the discovery of Stacy and Nathalie's lifeless bodies.

King Albert and Queen Paola are "very moved" and "share the great pain of the families", a royal palace spokesman said.

Prince Filip and Princess Mathilde, currently on a trade mission to Moscow, expressed their sympathies "as parents to the parents who have lost a child".

"Out of respect, we will not publicly say anything more about the trade mission and cut short our walk," Prince Filip said on the Red Square in Moscow.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt expressed the government's deepest sympathies, stressing he was deeply saddened by the tragedy.

He congratulated police for their efforts and said together with Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx and Interior Minister Patrick Dewael the priority was now identifying the killer(s).

The Belgian Parliament has observed a minute's silence.

The chief of the federal police's missing persons unit, Alain Remue, said he will leave Liège with mixed feelings: "We have worked together fantastically. We found them, but not alive".

Reminded about Julie and Mélissa who were rescued from Dutroux's secret dungeon alive, Remue said the case of Stacy and Nathalie was a test for the nation's police force following reforms carried out after the Dutroux case.

"But it was not our intention to prove that much had changed," he said, adding simply that he "had so much wanted to find the two children alive".

Shortly after the discovery of the girls' bodies, the public started laying flowers and messages of support in the area where the girls were found. Flowers were also placed at the city court, while children left behind drawings.

29 June 2006


01:42 Gepost door Jaap in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (4) |  Facebook |


'One of the most unbearable parts of that time was when the media stopped reporting'
Mrs Russo said one of the most unbearable parts of that time was when the media stopped reporting the story and attention shifted elsewhere...

"I have not tried to make contact with the parents of Stacy and Nathalie," she said, "because I remember that in the first few days I was surrounded by supportive people. But if they need to talk over the days to come, I am here."


'I feel personally implicated'

By Justin Stares
Telegraph 18/06/2006

The mother of a victim of Belgium's most notorious paedophile was last night reliving her worst nightmare as the search for the missing step-sisters, Stacy and Nathalie, continued.

Carine Russo waited for more than a year before discovering the fate of eight-year-old Melissa, who died of starvation after being imprisoned with Julie Lejeune, also eight, in the cellar of Marc Dutroux in 1995.

"There are similarities with 11 years ago," Mrs Russo said. "We are talking about two young girls from the Liège region. Even the month is the same, though obviously we hope with all our might that they will not face the same fate as Melissa and Julie."

Melissa and Julie, among Dutroux's eight victims of whom only two survived, were tortured, sexually abused and left to starve to death.

In 1995, police visited his house when they were still alive but did not realise the girls were being held in the cellar, despite hearing the sound of children.

It was only after he was arrested in connection with another kidnapping that Dutroux, a known paedophile, led investigators to a different house where he had buried the girls.

Tests carried out on Melissa's corpse revealed that she had survived for nine months after her abduction. Repeated rapes had left her with dreadful injuries.

"During those nine months it was still possible to save her," Mrs Russo said. "But in the end she was found too late."

Mrs Russo said one of the most unbearable parts of that time was when the media stopped reporting the story and attention shifted elsewhere.

The parents of Stacy and Nathalie would have to fight to keep their plight in the public eye if their ordeal continued, Mrs Russo said. The media frenzy of recent days would be short-lived and the massive police mobilisation would be scaled back if there was no breakthrough.

Equally difficult is keeping a grip on reality, she said. "The feelings are so strong, they are overwhelming. When you are so traumatised it's hard to stay reasonable." Mrs Russo and her husband, Gino, set up a foundation with other relatives of Dutroux's victims to help families in similar situations.

"I have not tried to make contact with the parents of Stacy and Nathalie," she said, "because I remember that in the first few days I was surrounded by supportive people. But if they need to talk over the days to come, I am here."

Mrs Russo said she had been following the events as if living her ordeal a second time. "I cannot help myself. I feel personally implicated."

Julie Lejeune's parents are also reliving the nightmare of 1995. "I decided to work for other parents, other children. But personally, a lot has resurfaced," said Jean-Denis Lejeune, Julie's father. "In 10 days it will have been 11 years since Julie and Melissa disappeared. It is as if it happened yesterday," he told the Liège newspaper Le Jour.


Gepost door: James | 12-09-07

Gerry McCann The last few days have been incredibly busy and of course, unbelievably stressful and emotionally draining.

On Friday Kate and I were made ‘arguido’- official suspects in Madeleines disappearance. We cannot comment on any details of the investigation, interviews or any evidence that has been presented to us. We could never possibly have imagined being put in this unbearable situation. No specific charges have been presented at this point and there has been no restriction on our movements imposed.

Despite the anguish and extreme distress this has caused all of our family, long term no one will be able to doubt how intensely Kate and I have been scrutinised. We have absolute confidence that, when all of the facts are presented together, we will be able to demonstrate that we played absolutely no part in Madeleines abduction. Our primary concern has always been the search for Madeleine and this aspect, that our daughter is still missing, must remain a priority for the investigation.

On Saturday we asked the Portuguese police if they had any objection to us coming back to the UK. We had assured them that we will continue to cooperate fully with the investigation and of course will return as requested and for our own emotional reasons. We decided to fly back on Sunday as we had originally planned and all of our family spent the rest of the evening helping us to pack.

On Sunday we left for the airport at 7am with huge media attention. Camera crews followed us all the way to the airport, and the whole experience, like much of the last four months was incredibly surreal. The flight itself went quickly with Sean and Amelie constantly active and excited about returning to Leicestershire. We always hoped that we would not have to return without Madeleine and could never have imagined the possibility that we would do so as suspects in our own daughters disappearance. The pain and turmoil we have experienced in this last week is totally beyond description. Kate and I are totally 100% confident in each others innocence and our family and friends have rallied round unflinchingly to support us. We would like to thank everyone else for the support we have received since we came home.

We have had very mixed emotions since coming back to our own home. It is very comforting to have such familiar surroundings and our own belongings and the twins have settled straight back in as if they have never been away. We have had numerous visitors with friends and those in official capacities. We have appointed solicitors to advise us and assist our Portuguese lawyer in preparing our defence against any possible charges. The sooner this is done the sooner we can concentrate fully on trying to find Madeleine, which is the most important thing through this unending nightmare.

Gerry's Blog/Diary
Day 130 - 10/09/2007


Gepost door: Princess de Croÿ | 14-09-07

'Lie and tell us you did it, and you can go free' Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, the Australian woman wrongly convicted of murdering her baby after telling police it had been snatched by a dingo, has spoken out in support of the parents of the missing Madeleine McCann, claiming they could suffer a similar miscarriage of justice to her own.

Ms Chamberlain-Creighton, now 59, was jailed for life in 1980 after her account of the disappearance of her two-month-old daughter, Azaria, during a camping trip in the outback was dismissed by Australian investigators. No body was ever found, but she was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The conviction was overturned in 1988 after some of Azaria's clothing was discovered. "What that couple are going through sounds like a mirror image to what happened to me," she said yesterday. "Lie and tell us you did it, and you can go free, tell us the truth and you can't, the police will be saying."

Esther Addley, Giles Tremlett and Brendan de Beer in Praia da Luz
Saturday September 15, 2007
The Guardian


Gepost door: James | 15-09-07

Update La justice contrôle les fuites, la presse continue à spéculer.

Gepost door: Claude | 15-09-07

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