The demolition work, which should last ten days, started Tuesday morning in this popular district of Marcinelle, a section of Charleroi, noted AFP journalists.

This is the house from which Sabine and Laetitia were released on August 15, 1996, two teenagers aged 12 and 14 whom Marc Dutroux had immured alive in a cache.

The investigation into the worst pedophile crimes in Belgium also established that two 8-year-old girls, found dead of starvation two days later in another residence in Dutroux, had previously been detained in Marcinelle. Julie and Mélissa had been kidnapped in June 1995, twelve months before the macabre discovery.

On Tuesday, after dismantling the panels covering the red brick facade of the uninhabited house, workers perched on a crane removed the tiles from the roof. The demolition will be gradual, from top to bottom of the building.

According to local authorities, this rehabilitation project, which also concerns a garage and the house next to that of Marc Dutroux, plans to preserve the cellars, in accordance with the wishes of the families of the victims.

The objective is to erect a “memorial garden” by the end of 2023 in place of this block of houses which has become infamous throughout the country.

Called “between earth and sky”, this memorial, planted with trees and flowers, was designed “in consultation with the parents of Julie and Mélissa, who wanted this vegetation as a symbol of life”, explained Sarah Bouderbane, spokesperson for the Mayor of Charleroi Paul Magnette.

The garden will be slightly raised above the street, built on a new concrete slab which will strengthen the stability of the basement of the dwellings, said Arthur Hardy, city planning advisor to AFP. “This reserves the possibility in the future of accessing these cellars,” he said.

The families, who believe that all their questions have not been clarified by the legal procedure (the duration of the sequestrations, possible complicity, etc.), wanted the cellars to be preserved as a potential ground for new future investigations.

Sentenced to life in prison in 2004, Marc Dutroux, 65, was found guilty of kidnapping, kidnapping and raping six girls and young women in 1995-96. Sabine and Laetitia, found two days after his arrest, are the only two of his victims to have survived.