15 June 2004
RENNES – A former waiter was jailed for 30 years for murdering British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson eight years ago, it was reported Tuesday.
Francisco Arce Montes, 54, had admitted sexual assault but denied murdering the 13-year-old at a French hostel.
Montes was found guilty and will serve at least 20 years. His defence lawyers said an appeal would be considered.
An investigating officer described his “great feeling of satisfaction” Montes had finally been jailed.
The trial in Rennes heard there was a “billion to one” chance DNA found at the scene did not belong to Montes.
Jurors rejected the Spaniard’s claim Caroline was still alive when he left her after sexually assaulting her in a Brittany dormitory.
Caroline’s father John Dickinson called for a global DNA database to ensure criminals cannot “simply disappear”.
“I hope that Caroline will not be a simple statistic – but that she will be remembered for the wonderful girl she was,” he said.
The jury of six women and three men, who deliberated with the three judges, reached the verdict in four hours.
Presiding judge Fabienne Doroy asked Montes if he wanted to say anything in his defence.
But he said: “I have nothing to add. I am ashamed.”
He was ordered to pay EUR 95,000 in damages to Caroline’s family and EUR 15,000 costs.
Det Supt Andrew Pierce, of Devon and Cornwall police in England, spoke of his “delight” at the verdict.
“[There is a] great feeling of satisfaction. But more than that, a feeling of delight for John and Sue and Jenny Dickinson, who have campaigned for justice for Caroline over so many years,” he said.
And Tommy Ontko, a US customs officer who established the link between Montes and the case by searching a US database, said he had been lucky.
“We have put names into the system before and there are occasions when we didn’t receive any results… but on this occasion we did and we just ran with it,” he said.
Caroline’s father, standing outside the court with his ex-wife Sue, 46, said the verdict had “given some sort of justice” for his daughter.
“We have some wonderful memories that we will cherish and she will never be forgotten.”
Caroline was asleep in a room with four other classmates on an end-of-term trip to Pleine-Fougeres, from Launceston College in Cornwall, when Montes attacked.
She was discovered dead on 18 July 1996, with a cotton pad that had been used to silence her next to her body.
The court heard how Montes had tried unsuccessfully to assault another English girl in another youth hostel earlier that night.
Prosecutors told the court he had been a serial sexual predator of young girls during lengthy travels through Europe and South America during a 15-year-period.
The former waiter and lorry driver had preyed on children in youth hostels in Britain, Holland, France and Spain, showing a preference for girls aged 12 to 15.
He was extradited to France after he was arrested in the US in November 2001.
Caroline’s parents were praised for their persistence in pushing French investigators to use the DNA testing which led eventually to Montes.
The investigation caused an overhaul of the French criminal investigation system.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news