Thursday, January 21, 2010

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 12.9.2007: 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

13:53 Posted by Delva in Actualité | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: falsely accused, parents |  Facebook |