The estranged wife of the convicted child rapist, Marc Dutroux, has rejected his denials over the abductions and murders of several girls. Michelle Martin, 44, took the stand for the first time in the trial in a Belgian court.

She said Dutroux was responsible for the abductions of two eight-year-old girls in June 1995, with the help of a murdered accomplice, Bernard Weinstein. Police say the girls starved to death.

Mark Dutroux is standing trial for the murder of four young girls in the 1990s. Ms Martin is also being tried, alongwith two others, for related offences.

Earlier Dutroux claimed that he is innocent. On his first day in the witness box, Marc Dutroux blamed others for the crimes, including the three people also being tried for related offences. He alleged that a criminal gang, which enjoyed police and political protection, was responsible.

Dutroux denied involvement in the kidnappings in June 1995 of two eight-year-old girls, Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, but admitted taking part in the abductions two months later of An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambrecks, 19.

Dutroux told the court that two policemen helped him kidnap Marchal and Lambrecks. The bodies of the four girls were found buried in the gardens of properties belonging to Dutroux in August 1996. They had all been raped and beaten.

Two other girls, aged 12 and 14, were rescued from a secret cellar built by Dutroux in his house at Marcinelle, near the southern town of Charleroi.

It is thought Dutroux's barrister will argue that Dutroux was part of a wider child sex conspiracy.