Drifter 'used cotton to kill British schoolgirl'

8th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

RENNES, France, June 7 (AFP) - A 54-year-old Spanish waiter used a cotton pad to smother British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson to death as he brutally abused her in a Brittany youth hostel eight years ago, a French court was told Monday.

RENNES, France, June 7 (AFP) - A 54-year-old Spanish waiter used a cotton pad to smother British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson to death as he brutally abused her in a Brittany youth hostel eight years ago, a French court was told Monday.

According to the prosecution case which was read out on the first day of the Spaniard's trial, Francisco Arce Montes was a serial offender with a pattern of sex attacks on young teenage girls, and on the night of the killing was fired up by a failed assault 35 kilometres (20 miles) away.

The trial in one of France's most notorious murder cases of recent times opened in the 17th century courthouse in the Brittany capital Rennes, with the accused - who has been in custody since his extradition from the United States in 2001 - appearing frail and distracted.

Diagnosed with anorexia and other mental troubles, Arce Montes has spent much of the last year at the psychological unit of a prison outside Paris, but the presiding judge rejected a plea by his lawyers that this had prevented them organising a proper defence.

The murder of 13-year-old Caroline at the hostel in the village of Pleine-Fougeres in July 1996 provoked horror and incomprehension after it was shown that the attack took place in the small first-floor bedroom that she was sharing with four schoolfriends.

Caroline's parents and sister listened impassively as a court official described how her room-mates found her lifeless body at eight o'clock in the morning, with her pyjama shorts rolled in a ball between her legs and a large stain of blood on the mattress.

An autopsy revealed that she died from asphyxia, and had suffered severe trauma to her genitalia - though it was not clear if she had literally been raped.

The prosecution case - a 13-page document known as the acte d'accusation - alleged that on the night of the attack Arce Montes cased out the hostel where Caroline's school party was staying, as well as another hostel in the same international chain at the coastal resort of Saint-Lunaire.

At around 2:30 am he was caught in the act of abusing a British schoolgirl in a dormitory at Saint-Lunaire, and fled the scene to return to the Pleine-Fougeres hostel whose front door was left open overnight. He had taken a mixture of alcohol and anti-depressants that made him "feel like Superman".

"Still excited by the scene .... he had an immediate desire to touch this young girl and masturbate," the document said. "He lay beside her, uncovered her body, took off her shorts and placed a cotton pad over her mouth to stop her screaming.

"By using force to hermetically seal her respiratory passages in order to rape her, Arce Montes must have been aware that he would kill her by asphyxiation," according to the document.

Fleeing to Britain after the attack, Arce Montes was identified as a suspect a year later when police discovered that he had been briefly detained for breaking into a hostel in central France in 1994. At the time he was found to be bearing details of several hostels for young people.

Investigators also discovered that he had been jailed for armed rape in Germany in 1985, and in 1997 jumped bail near his home in Asturias, northern Spain, where he was under suspicion of a similar attack. He spent the following years in South America.

Arce Montes was eventually arrested in Miami after a new assault, and was identified only after a US immigration officer on holiday in London read a story on the Dickinson affair and spotted his name. DNA evidence linked him uncontrovertibly to semen found on the scene.

Avidly followed by the British media, the murder case was dogged by accusations of incompetence on the part of French police who in the crucial early days of the investigation wrongfully arrested a homeless man and held him for 17 days.

The publicity generated by the murder led to major innovations to the conduct of French criminal enquiries, such as the first ever mass DNA test which was carried out on male inhabitants of Pleine-Fougeres and subsequently on all suspects in sexual assaults.

Arce Montes faces life in prison if convicted of the voluntary homicide of a minor, accompanied by rape. He admits the facts in the case, but denies intending to kill. The trial is expected to end Friday.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 


 

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