Brussels prosecutors on Thursday approved a request for a new psychiatric assessment of one of Europe's most notorious child-killers, Marc Dutroux, paving the way for his possible conditional release.
The convicted paedophile and murderer, who turns 63 in November, was given a life sentence in 2004 for abducting and raping six girls in 1995-1996 and for the deaths of four of them.
Two of his victims were murdered and two died of hunger in a dungeon he kept in the basement of his home.
Dutroux's mental health has not been assessed since his appearance before a court 15 years ago where he was described as a "real psychopath," a "perverted narcissist", and a "manipulator".
Dutroux's lawyer Bruno Dayez, who took up the case in 2016, started moves for a re-evaluation of his mental state in the hope of obtaining his conditional release in 2021, when Dutroux would have served 25 years in prison.
The demand was examined on Thursday by a special court sitting in the Nivelles jail in central Belgium where Dutroux is being held and "prosecutors approved" the defence's request, Willemien Baert, a spokesman for the prosecutors told AFP.
- Public outrage -
The judges will deliver their ruling on the afternoon of October 28 in Brussels.
Dayez said three medical experts could be designated to examine Dutroux.
The request has stoked indignation among his victims' families and the public.
Because Dutroux is in the category of inmates serving at least 30-year terms, the number of judges hearing the matter has been boosted to five, instead of the usual three. They have to reach a unanimous decision, which cannot be appealed.
Dutroux in 2013 asked to be transferred to house arrest with an electronic tracking ankle bracelet but the court refused.
During his trial in 2004, a psychiatrist who examined Dutroux described him as one of the worst psychopaths he had met.
The families of his victims say he is "a manipulative pervert" who has never owned up to what he did nor expressed remorse.
But his defence lawyers denounce his prolonged incarceration. Dayez told AFP that nobody deserves to "rot on his feet" behind bars.
Georges-Henri Beauthier, a lawyer representing a father whose daughter was killed and a woman who survived Dutroux's dungeon, said the court did not give an opportunity for counter arguments nor full access to the case file.
"My problem is, who selects the experts? And what are they going to look at exactly?" he told AFP earlier.
He added that a previous conviction Dutroux had for a series of rapes in 1989 should be brought into evidence to underline the paedophile's "particularly manipulative and dangerous" character.
Dutroux's accomplices, however, have won release.
One, Michel Lelievre, who was sentenced to 25 years, has just been paroled -- as long as he finds lodgings in a specified area.
Dutroux's ex-wife Michelle Martin, sentenced to 30 years as an accomplice, was paroled in 2012.
She has been given accommodation by a former judge after spending time in a convent.