Morgen, 10 January 1998
WITH REGINA LOUF, WITNESS XI AT NEUFCHATEAU
Bulté and Douglas de Coninck
How did we approach her? We
wrote to her at the beginning of November. The
following morning, the phone rang: "Hello,
this is XI." A clear voice, "Im
impressed that youve found me."
Searching for the right tone, I said: "You
seem to be cheerful, but perhaps youre
not." Laughter: "Ha, people prefer to
imagine a victim as a little pile of misery who
sits despairing in a corner and doesnt dare
to say a word. Ive passed that stage. I
keep going through my sense of humour. Is that
allowed?" A few days later, the first of six
meetings took place. Meetings that went on until
the small hours, in which her cheerful poses
would sometimes turn unexpectedly to waves of
bitterness, anger or guilt. After each meeting,
she slipped us a bundle of notes: the story of
her life, in episodes. "At night I
cant get to sleep so I write
During our fourth
conversation, it seemed that things werent
running too smoothly at home. Her husband was off
work and thought he would do her a favour by
gathering up the mess in the dogs cage. She
threw some cat litter at him. "Used cat
litter," he pointed out. "I cant
do anything about it," she said. "If
anyone interferes with my plans for the day, I
get furious. He has to learn not to touch this
mess." He laughed and pointed to his
wifes arms. She laughed, too: "And if
nothing changes, I cut." Dogs, then. We
could hear them, but we never got to count how
many there are. We did manage to count the
children, though. There are four. "I wanted
to replace each child they took from me,"
she said with a meditative air. We had read this
in the files, but it was different to hear it
from her own mouth.
Except in the media, she
prefers to be called Gini. She was born in
January 1969 in Knokke. She had not yet learnt to
speak when her grandmother, with whom she would
spend most of her childhood,
"initiated" her. Under her
grandmothers wing, she grew up as a child
prostitute. She was lent to men who wanted her
and rented a room in one of the hotels where her
grandmother placed her. The group of clients
remained relatively small, but that changed when
she left Knokke at the age of ten to go and live
with her mother in Ghent. She discovered that as
a girl her mother had been through the same
experience as her, and was now on the other side
of the fence. Mum was close to a man called T., a
procurer from Borgerhout. Gini knew him as
someone who provided children for orgies. One day
her mother told her that she had been sold to T.
Later, she found out the price: 120,000 francs.
T. introduced Gini into the circuit in Ghent,
Brussels and Antwerp where things took a much
more violent turn than in Knokke.
In the course of her
testimony, Gini talked about snuff movies, the
murder of children and even hunting parties
during which naked children ran in a park and
were shot with crossbows. She said that she had
learnt what drove these clients to such extremes:
a sort of addiction to power, the power to decide
over pain, life and death. She spoke of
businessmen, politicians some of them
well-known, others less so magistrates,
doctors and men with families. XI got to know a
series of children who, like her, had been part
of the network for years. Until they became too
old and/or were thought to talk too much. Most of
them, said XI, had to be profitable until the
"How did you manage to
XI (laughing): "Thanks
Husband: "She is very
XI: "From a very early
age I developed a strong survival instinct. My
father was a Canadian Indian and had landed in
Knokke and then set off again. Perhaps its
in my blood. I was small and hard, and had great
resistance to pain. My wounds healed very
quickly. Thats why, at the beginning of the
eighties, I was worth a lot of money. I obviously
got into the S/M branch. Scripts were written for
films I had to act in.
"Every year I managed
to survive by watching these people very
carefully and trying to understand what made them
tick. For example, T. came for me one evening and
said: Were going to Franss, you
know who Frans is?" "Yes," I said.
For half an hour he said nothing. Then he stopped
and gave me a real hiding. I can assure you that
after that you would never say you knew who Frans
was. You simply didnt know Frans any more.
Finally, one day in November 1984, T. said
"When youre sixteen you can come and
live at my house." He didnt have to
explain any more. My turn would come. Of all the
generation of young girls between 1982 and 1984,
I was the only one still alive. I was a child
prostitute, no-one would miss me. No-one would
report my disappearance to the police, least of
all my mother. So I began to think. I needed to
find a lover as soon as possible and love him so
intensely that he would miss me. And I had to be
quick, I had no more than three months. I found
him (she laughs). Look, hes still
here." Husband: "And I didnt know
anything about all this."
XI: "It was a big
gamble. I convinced T. that my friend was aware
of everything. They put strong pressure on me to
give him up. T. gave me a little horse, Tasja. I
was mad about him. T. hadnt bought Tasja to
make me happy, only to increase his power over
me. If I behaved, he wouldnt be put down,
he said. It was a heart-rending choice. Tasja or
him. But I knew that if I wanted to survive I had
to lose Tasja. And one day the stable was
So it was thanks to him
that you were able to leave the network?
XI: "Not immediately.
We got married very quickly and I tried to get
pregnant. I organised my life in such a way as to
be with him as much as possible. But it
wasnt always possible. He still had to do
his military service. I hoped they would leave me
alone if they saw I had built a new life without
putting them at risk. A terrible mistake! One
day, I was alone at home with the baby, who was a
few months old, and they were at the door, T. and
Miche, and Nihoul. They had come to remind me of
my duty to keep silent, and there was only one
way of doing that: by making me an accomplice. I
was an adult and I had to go with them, while a
guard-dog would stay with my baby.
Nothing would happen to the child, they said, if
I obeyed. You know, new-born babies die
more often than you think, and if it happens two
or three times, they begin to ask questions about
the mother. I was crazy. I couldnt
bear to lose another baby. After that, this went
on for years. My mother told them when my husband
was away, because he was working as a
lorry-driver. When he came home, I would be
cringing in a corner, paralysed with fear."
Husband: "I thought
she was suffering from depression because of what
shed been through. But she never told me
that these threats were continuing."
XI: "T. enrolled at
the Free University of Brussels to study
psychology. That shows to what extent they were
concerned about their security system. It was a
concentration camp. I knew girls who organised
their own farewell parties without knowing it. I
heard others say They wont get me,
Ill escape. But their power was
When did all that stop for
XI: "In June 1995 I
saw T. for the last time. In the following
months, I was afraid he would come back. He
didnt phone any more. So gradually I began
to realise that it was really over. I suppose
there had been a change in the power structure
within the network. The old procurers had trained
new procurers. I couldnt know these new
people. This was exactly what I wanted! I was
certain of one thing: I could finally begin to
live and I would never, never speak!"
But you did speak in the
XI: "Yes, on the
advice the my friend Tania. I could strangle her
(she laughs). She knew the broad outlines of my
story, but I had never mentioned any names
until 1996. It must have been 17 August. We were
watching TV together. He appeared: Miche, on the
steps of the court, booed by a band of young
people. I cringed. Tania noticed that something
was wrong. Do you know him? I nodded.
I didnt even know his surname. I remember
thinking to myself: Nihoul, thats a perfect
name for him.
"I was distressed by
the constant attention on the Dutroux case. I
have never believed in God, but when I saw the
pictures of the liberation of Sabine and
Laetitia, I rushed into the bathroom. Without
really knowing what I was doing, I kneeled down
in front of the mirror and began to pray:
Thank you, God, thank you! At last! At last
they have freed two of them! The policemen
who led Sabine and Laetitia into a car were the
white knights I had dreamed of throughout all
those years. They never came for me. Every time
T. drove home completely drunk I hoped the police
would stop him for a breath-test. Nowadays I hear
about these things all the time, but they
didnt exist at the time."
"Tania and I talked
all night. She thought I should go to
Neufchâteau. I said she was mad. No-one would
believe me. And I also felt as guilty as Miche. I
could already see myself with a bullet-proof
jacket on the steps at Neufchâteau. Tania
insisted. In the end we reached a compromise. She
would call Connerotte and tell him she knew
someone who knew a lot about Nihoul. She would
tell them everything. But only about Nihoul. I
didnt want to have anything to do with it.
On 4 September she phoned Connerotte. He sent
Warrant Officer De Baets to her house. He
didnt believe any of her story. Tania tried
to convince him and gave him a copy of the book I
had written in 1993."
Youve written a book?
XI: "Yes, I sent the
manuscript to Acco in Leuven in 1993. They
rejected it, which is understandable. So that
evening Tania called me. She told me, cagily,
that she had talked a bit more than she should
have. The BSR man is still here, she
said. He wants to talk to you. And another
thing, Ive given him your manuscript.
I was furious. You damn fool, dont
you remember that I signed your copy? I had
this De Baets a moment on the phone, and without
really thinking about it I agreed to meet him.
After that I began to reflect. What had I got
myself into? I panicked and phoned to call it
off. I wouldnt testify, no way. But it
continued to gnaw at me. I realised that the BSR
had my name and that they would obviously look
further. And if they kept Nihoul, sooner or later
they would get to me. So I phoned all the
How did the investigators
react? Did they believe you?
XI: "I remember that
during the first session of questioning a member
of the BSR rushed out into the corridor and I
heard him shout The bastards!.
Hell get over it, said his colleagues. And
yet I had been quite vague, the first time. I had
only explained in broad terms how a network like
that was structured. After that, it became more
difficult. They wanted concrete details, names,
places. It was distressing. All my life I had
learned to keep quiet. Every time you do
something that the torturers dont like, you
are punished. Not straight away, because it takes
days or weeks. But the punishment comes. Often
its not you who are punished, but a friend
or an animal you love. I lived with brakes inside
me holding me back. Every time I mentioned names
during the questioning sessions, the next few
days were awful."
"In fact I told them a
lot more than I wanted to. Partly because of the
stubbornness of De Baets and the first team of
investigators. For the first time in my life, I
had the impression that my story was being taken
seriously. Sometimes, however, they treated me
harshly. When they questioned me on the subject
of certain names, I always wanted to know why. In
general I gave very short answers. Thats
why they had to ask a lot of questions. Now this
is interpreted as leading questions,
but that wasnt the case. I wanted to know
where they wanted to get to, partly out of
anxiety. I wasnt willing to get just anyone
into trouble. I knew people who, at one party or
another, were made to get drunk and then led into
a bedroom where a 16-year-old girl would be
waiting for them. I didnt want to destroy
the lives of people like that. Then there were
some people I wanted to avoid because I knew that
what I had to say would be completely
"I was awkward, I
know. But when I read the papers now, I realise
that it is impossible, following the procedures
used in Belgium, to question a victim of sexual
abuse. They dont know how to do it in an
appropriate way. The first BSR team tried at
least. They got the first concrete testimonies
and they thought they would get somewhere with
them. Thats what they thought."
Do you want to talk about
the murder of Christine Van Hees in the old
Champignonnière in Auderghem?
XI: "Yes. They
organised parties to which we had to invite
friends. They were tested. They played little
games, watched how the girls reacted, went a bit
further and were easily able to pick out their
victims. What they preferred was children who had
problems with their parents. That way their
disappearance would be passed off as running away
from home. These girls ended up in the hard core.
Thats what happened with Christine. She was
one of Nihouls girls. He was able to do
that: take a girl like her to some bar or other
and listen to her talk about her problems for
hours on end, with a serious, understanding
manner. He would give them little presents and
create a secret world between them."
You have stated that both
Marc Dutroux and Michel Nihoul were involved in
the murder. So they already knew each other well
XI: "I certainly
didnt consider them as an established duo.
I saw them together occasionally. Miche was
clearly a few ranks higher. I was astonished when
I saw what Dutroux had become. This calm,
second-string figure. I had never seen him as a
deadly threat. At that time he was just a little
jerk who might participate from time to time. I
try to imagine what might have happened to him.
Perhaps he thought: Im going to strike out
on my own."
"Miche was a brutal
type. Nothing would stop him. I still feel
distress when I think of him. I must say I was
astonished when I heard that he was involved in
the kidnap of Laetitia. It wasnt his style.
He wasnt the sort who was willing to get
his hands dirty. And I was even more surprised
when I heard that his alibi consisted in saying
that he was doing up a flat with Michel
Vanderelst (she pulls a face). A flat! Nihoul and
Vanderelst busy with brushes, wallpaper, and
hammers. Come off it! I have only seen him
hammering a nail once, and that wasnt in a
wall (she bursts out laughing). Sorry,
thats not funny."
In your account of the
murder of Christine Van Hees, there are some
curious elements. After other murders, the bodies
were hidden professionally. Here attention was
attracted immediately by the fire.
XI: "Ill tell
you something I still havent told the
investigators. To give you an idea of the feeling
of impunity they had. They had made a bet. They
bet to know who they would set up for this
murder. They knew that some punks hung about in
these ruins and they knew they would be arrested.
It was a game. Making a body disappear had become
so simple that for once they wanted to do
something more spectacular. Thats how it
worked. More and more tension, more and more
adrenaline. To go beyond the limits
How do you know things like
that? They wouldnt tell that to a victim?
XI: "My survival
instinct. When youve been inside so long,
you behave like a little dog who follows his
master, even if he beats you. What else could I
have done? I saw my friends disappear all the
time. I couldnt get attached to them
because I might lose them from one day to the
next. The only stable values were my torturers.
So I turned towards them. They were my gods. They
decided over my pain, my life and my death. I
could only survive if I took my place by their
side. So thats what I did. During their
conversations they forgot I was there. I was like
a house dog, I had become invisible. I acted as
if I didnt understand French. I hardly
speak the language, but I understand it only too
well. So I learned a lot. I learned to survive.
Sometimes it was just non-verbal language, like
in the hunting parties. The children were in a
row, and had to choose a hunter themselves. I
always acted as if Im one of
you. I always stood next to the ones who
laughed. The ones who laughed were the most
nervous. They were doing it for the first time
and they had been drinking. So they shot
Do you feel guilty?
XI (coldly): "What do
you think? Try to put yourself in my shoes.
Imagine that you have to choose between your two
best friends. To really choose. One of them is
going to die. I had to do that several times.
Thats why I never sleep more than two hours
a night. I could easily say I was the most
cunning, but in my life Ive done
nothing but choose. All those people I knew pass
before me every night. Choose, Gini, this one or
"Obviously I feel
guilty. Clo, Christine, the other girls stayed
behind me. They could have done much more with
their lives than me. Why me? Take Christine. I
admit that at the beginning, like the other
experienced girls, I took a dislike to her. I was
worried about her naive and loving behaviour. Her
and her Miche. How could she be so stupid? I
thought: wait, my girl, until you really get to
know him. The second time I saw her, she was
already less enthusiastic. I was chosen to train
her. This meant I had to pay when the new girl
wasnt liberated enough.
Christine caused me a lot of worries. The victims
did not show solidarity with each other. There
was a lot of jealousy.
"One evening I felt
sorry for her. I saw her sitting in a corner of
the bathroom. It had been hard for her again and
she was crying. We started talking. Our procurers
were busy on a binge and were paying no attention
to us. She said she couldnt stand it
anymore, that she was going to kill herself. I
tried to talk her out of it. Wasnt there
anyone she could trust? Someone she could tell
that she had fallen in love with an older man who
was asking her to do things she couldnt
accept and that she was scared? She kept a secret
diary, she told me, that she had put in a
hiding-place. There wasnt anything much in
the diary, just that she had met an older man,
that it was getting out of hand, all very vague.
Do your parents love you? I asked
her. Yes, she said. Then tell them about
it, I said. She promised me that she would.
A few days later, I was with Mieke, who had also
been in the network a long time. She was angry
with Christine because she had been punished
because of her. I whispered that it wouldnt
last much longer. I told her about my
conversation with Christine. Mieke panicked. She
told Miche everything. From that moment, it was
decided that Christine would die, and in a way we
would remember for a long time. Because of a
stupid remark made by me, that girl suffered and
died as a martyr. God, what sort of world were we
living in? We were stupid teenagers. I can still
hear Mieke say that Christine had become
dangerous and that she didnt feel like
ending up in the hospital herself. A few months
later she was killed, too."
Some investigators say you
gathered together information from old newspapers
and filled in the rest of the story at random.
XI: "I am beginning to
know what Im accused of. Of course I made
some mistakes. Hell, I could no longer tell the
difference between day and night! That same
weekend, they killed my little boy Tiu. It was a
bloody orgy. In the end they took me home
not even to the doorstep, just to a motorway
exit. I staggered the rest of the way. For weeks
I didnt utter a word. All I wanted was one
thing: to be with Tiu, to die. Now Im
expected to describe that evening calmly as if I
were talking about what I ate yesterday. Well
Im not capable. Sorry. I have trouble with
the order of events, I know. I mix facts up and
put them together in the wrong order. But what I
said they did to Christine was checked and it
seems to correspond. My account of the events is
even more precise than the old police file: the
nail, the tampax, the electric wire, the house,
the people who did it. It seems thats not
enough. Well its a pity. I cant do
any better. I didnt know that this affair
had caused so much fuss in Brussels over the
years. I had never heard of the champignonnière.
I only remember those big wooden boxes. It was a
shock to see all those pictures on TV suddenly.
It all came back (long silence)."
like Gino Russo said, it wasnt so long ago.
Even if only a tenth of all that is true,
its still horrible."
XI (getting angry):
"Hell, thats what everyone says! If
only a tenth of what I say were true!"
Recently you sent a fax to
the BSR in which you talk of the murders of
XI: "Thats the
truth. I would like to continue to testify. Now
that Ive crossed the line, it would be
better to carry on. I am certain that they could
open other files apart from those of Christine
Van Hees and Carine Dellaert. I know what
happened to another child who disappeared more
than five years ago. But if no-one is interested
anymore, theres nothing I can do about it.
The only thing I hope to prove through my
testimony is that the networks really existed. I
see that Ive achieved exactly the opposite.
A TV programme ("Au Nom de la Loi",
ed.) was enough for the media and the politicians
to claim that it wasnt as serious as people
feared. And the people swallow that. Nobody
reacts. So the networks dont exist? Ah,
what a relief.
"For me its not
so serious. I dont need to get revenge on
my torturers. On the contrary. It seems strange,
but by denouncing them I have given up a part of
my family. At the beginning I didnt want to
name names, because the idea that they are in
prison is still painful for me. But for the
little victims today there is no way out. When I
was able to leave the network for good, I saw
kids of four or five years old. Where are they
now? I did it for them. If the networks get
through the Dutroux case, weve had it for
ever. The torturers will be safer than they could
ever have hoped. And the victims will learn that
in future theyd better keep quiet."
What did you think when you
saw the country full of posters of Julie and
Mélissa, An and Eefje?
XI: "For me there was
no doubt that theyd ended up in a network.
I thought: it must be the last cry. No more
pleasure with a kidnapped child. What really
astonished me was the parents. I thought: what
are this stubborn couple doing? This Paul
Marchal, this Gino Russo. At one point I wondered
whether they werent just pretending. But it
was true. They were really looking for their
children. That seemed so unreal to me. I had
grown up with the idea that normal parents sell
Are you still helping with
XI: "I would like to,
but is there still an investigation? And if there
is, against who? After De Baets team was
dismissed, the new investigators got in touch.
One of them made it clear that I would no longer
be heard as a victim or as a witness. Had I
suddenly become an offender or something like
that? He replied that he didnt want to
answer that question and that he couldnt
believe I had never felt pleasure. I
had to bite my tongue. I am used to prejudices,
They also insisted on talking
about my lovers, while I was living
under the illusion that they were looking for my
investigation? I fear that they wont be
able to carry out any surprise searches any more.
(Mocking) Do you think there are any cassettes
left at T.s house? For six months nothing
has happened. They dismiss their best men. They
leave their files lying around in the back of
their cars, where they just happen to be stolen
(she laughs). That was the moment I thought about
contacting the press again. Where are these files
now? All my statements are in them, with the
names of the offenders. Is my name in them? If I
ask my current questioners that, they get
embarrassed. Lets get it straight, they
really dont want all those murders of
children in the eighties to be solved.
read and heard a lot of nonsense about me.
XI is a mythomaniac. She looks much too
well for someone who is supposed to have
experienced all those horrible things. Have
you heard the latest? At one time I worked as a
volunteer for a project run by "Tegen Haar
Wil", an organisation that defends victims
of rape. With the support of Miet Smet, we had
created an aid kit and a brochure to help the
police in their relations with the victims of
sexual abuse. When they found out at the BSR,
they jumped for joy! She has experience of the
victims side! Weve unmasked her! This
is the current climate. Oh, and then they also
say that I know X4 very well and that we
supposedly agreed on our versions."
Yesterday we received a
call from X4. She wanted to know if she can get
in touch with you.
inconceivable! They want to catch me out on the
slightest detail. They say that the girl I called
Clo in my first statements cant
be Carine Dellaert because I didnt know her
real name. But thats the way it was. Each
girl had a nickname. I was Reggi, she was Clo.
No-one knew the real names of the other girls.
One question completely threw me: what colour
were Clos eyes? I didnt know.
Its serious that I cant remember. But
just try with your own grandfather who died ten
years ago. Its difficult, you know. And
then their most stupid question: did Clo play a
musical instrument? As if we had nothing better
to do than talk about musical instruments. When
we had time to talk, we swapped information about
clients. How you should approach this one, what
you absolutely shouldnt do with that one,
and how you could avoid being punished. Yes, I
did feel solidarity towards Clo. Thats why
her death upset me so much."
Weve been talking for
a long time and the word Satanism still
hasnt come up.
XI: "An amusing
subject at last! (She poses as a
governess). Alright then, Satanism.
Put yourself in the torturers shoes. When
they received new victims into their network, it
was extremely important that they shouldnt
speak to anyone about what had happened to them.
Thats why they organised
ceremonies. They took the victim to a
heavily guarded house and convinced her that it
was her party. There would then be a
great performance with masks, candles, inverted
crosses, swords and animals. Rabbits were
disembowelled, the blood was poured on naked
girls, and some men and women worshipped the
devil. We, the experienced girls, were doubled up
with laughter when we saw them busy with their
carnival masks. Theyve got their
vampire costumes on again, we would say. I
dont think the torturers got much pleasure
out of it. They preferred to be completely naked
rather than going round in latex costumes. The
only aim of these rituals was to totally
disorient the victims. They plagued these kids
with a load of nonsense - Now you are the
wife of Satan and also gave them
coke, LSD or heroin. I can assure you that after
that you feel completely outside the real world.
That was the aim that the victim herself
should begin to doubt the fact that all this had
really happened. The result was that the victims
didnt dare speak to anyone."
Was your procurer a
XI: "He was about as
much a paedophile as I was clear-minded. I find
the expression paedophile network
misleading. For me paedophiles are those men who
go to playgrounds or swimming-pools, priests.
After the Dutroux case, it has become the latest
fashion: to search the bishops palace. I
certainly dont want to exonerate them, but
I would rather have paedophiles than the types we
were involved with. There were men who never
touched the children. Whether you were five, ten,
or fifteen didnt matter. What mattered to
them was sex, power, experience. To do things
they would never have tried with their own wives.
Among them there were some real sadists. Or some
who you had to sleep with and it all seemed
alright. When it was over, he would sit on the
side of the bed and drink some cognac. Then he
exploded and beat you up. There were also
homosexuals who cut a girl first for hours, which
excited them a lot, and then went with a boy.
"Dont get me
wrong. I took part in a lot of murderous orgies,
but more often in orgies that had no aim except
blackmail. The hard core consisted of
about forty people, at most. There were a few
hundred blackmail victims, perhaps thousands.
What I find most serious is that these people
have kept quiet. What did they do that was so
bad? They slept a few times with a 15- or
16-year-old girl sometimes not even
consciously and they know that there are
photos. Why dont they speak? Why dont