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"I didn't even know what pedophilia was," [Dutroux] said. "It was all Chinese to me."
Taking the stand for the first time, Belgium's most-hated man told the hushed courtroom in Arlon he had hidden two eight-year-old girls, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, in a concealed dungeon under his house to protect them from being sent into prostitution by a child sex ring.
Dutroux drew gasps from the packed courtroom when he admitted and described raping Laetitia Delhez, then 14, and Sabine Dardenne, then 12. Both girls survived.
Asked by the judge why he had built the trap door to conceal the dungeon, he said: "I wanted to create a hiding place to spare them from being sent to a prostitution ring."