Sabine Dardenne (born October 28, 1983) is a Belgian woman who was kidnapped at the age of twelve by the child molester and serial killer Marc Dutroux. Dardenne was one of Dutroux's last two victims. She and fellow captive Laetitia Delhez survived, though the bodies of four other kidnap victims and Dutroux's accomplice were found on the property.
Dardenne was kidnapped by Dutroux on May 28, 1996, while riding her bicycle to school. Although just twelve years old, Dardenne was feisty, pelting Dutroux with questions and demands. He convinced Dardenne that he was her only ally and that her parents had failed to produce the ransom that would save her from fictitious men who wanted to kill her. During her imprisonment in the basement of Dutroux's house, Dutroux allowed Dardenne to write emotional letters to her friends and family, which he never sent despite promises that he would do so. When, after many weeks, she said she wanted a girlfriend, he kidnapped 14-year old Laetitia Delhez, saying "Look what I've done for you."
The abduction of Delhez was Dutroux's undoing, since local witnesses in Delhez's hometown had spotted his car and at least one had written down his registration number, which police investigators traced to Dutroux. Dardenne and Delhez were rescued on August 15, 1996, by the Belgian police, two days after Dutroux had been arrested. Dutroux admitted to having abducted and raped them both.
Dardenne's ordeal in the basement of Dutroux's house lasted 80 days; Delhez spent 6 days in the basement. Earlier victims included eight-year-olds Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune, both of whom died of starvation while Dutroux was in prison for car theft, and seventeen-year-old An Marchal and nineteen-year-old Eefje Lambrecks, both of whom were buried alive. A fifth body, that of his French accomplice, Bernard Weinstein, was found. Dutroux admitted to having drugged Weinstein and burying him alive.
It took eight years for the case to come to trial. There were numerous problems, including arguments over jurisdiction, legal and procedural mistakes and charges of incompetence and evidence that disappeared. There were also several suicides of people involved with the case including prosecutors, police officers and witnesses. Communications between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia also fell short. In October 1996, 350,000 people marched in Brussels to protest against police incompetence in the case. The slow pace of the trial and the disturbing revelations of more of Dutroux's victims created public outrage. During the trial, Dutroux claimed to be a minion of a continent-wide pedophile ring that included prominent individuals and the legal establishment in Belgium. Dardenne and Delhez both testified against Dutroux during his 2004 trial, and their testimony played an important role in his subsequent conviction. They both also asked him why he did what he did to them.
Dardenne's account of her abduction and its aftermath are documented in her memoir J'avais douze ans, j'ai pris mon vélo et je suis partie à l'école ("I was twelve years old, I took my bike and I left for school"). The book has been translated into 14 languages and published in 30 countries. It became a number one bestseller both in continental Europe and the UK.
- I Choose to Live (2005) Virago Press, London (Original title: J'avais 12 ans, j'ai pris mon vélo et je suis partie à l'école)
- "Belgian kidnap victim tells story" BBC News Online. (February 24, 2003) Retrieved December 5, 2010
- Louise France, Book review "Don't waste pity on me." The Observer (May 15, 2005) Retrieved December 5, 2010
- Barbara Supp, "Surviving Marc Dutroux", Part 2 Translated by Christopher Sultan. Der Spiegel. (November 11, 2004) Retrieved December 5, 2010
- Jon Henley, "Don't pity me" The Guardian. (April 18, 2005) Retrieved December 5, 2010
- Ian Black, "Eight years on, Dutroux appears in court - but will the truth be heard?" BBC News Online. (February 28, 2004) Retrieved December 6, 2010
- Book review (June 2005) Retrieved December 5, 2010
- Alexandra Fouché, "Belgium's trial of shame" BBC News Online. Retrieved December 5, 2010
- "Dutroux claims police helped in teens' kidnap" The Times (March 3, 2004) Retrieved December 6, 2010
- "Surviving Marc Dutroux", Part 1 Der Spiegel (November 11, 2004) Retrieved December 5, 2010