30 yrs for UK schoolgirl murder

Francisco Arce Montes, who was described in court as a serial offender with a string of convictions and arrests across Europe dating back to the early 1980s, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

He was told he will not be eligible for parole for at least 20 years.

The verdict by a nine-member jury has brought to a close one of France’s most notorious murder cases.

Initially dogged by accusations of incompetence, the investigation eventually led to the introduction of innovative forensic testing techniques, including the use of mass DNA tests and the setting up of a national DNA database.

Caroline Dickinson was 13 when she was smothered to death after being sexually assaulted while on an end-of-term trip to Brittany in France in July 1996.

The court heard how Montes had attempted to assault another English girl in a separate youth hostel on the same night before entering the Pleine-Fougeres dormitory in which Caroline was sleeping with four other classmates.

Police used semen found on her body that was later used to trace the genetic code of her attacker.

But it wasn’t until 2001, that Montes was tracked down after being arrested in Miami, in the United States, for committing a sexual assault in a hostel.

By chance, an American customs worker on holiday in London read a newspaper article on the Dickinson case which mentioned Montes’ name as one of the suspects.

DNA testing later confirmed the link, and he was extradited to France to face trial.

In a week-long hearing, Montes admitted the facts in the case, but denied he had intended to kill Caroline Dickinson.

He told the court that he had only wanted to touch her, and thought she was asleep when he left.

The defence is considering an appeal.

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