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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Three years to convict a killer
Francisco Arce Montes
Francisco Arce Montes denied a string of offences
Francisco Arce Montes, who raped and murdered British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson, continually denied his involvement in a string of sex attacks.

But during a series of court cases and police interviews lasting three years, his shocking crimes were revealed.

Caroline, 13, was attacked and murdered by Spaniard Montes at a hostel in Brittany in July 1996.

But he evaded capture until US police arrested him over a similar attack on a woman in Florida in April 2001.

Montes denied raping and murdering Caroline, initially challenging the accuracy of DNA evidence which linked him to the crime.

Caroline Dickinson
Caroline's roommates did not realise the attack was taking place
By the time the case finally came to trial, after extradition and committal hearings, Montes admitted sexually assaulting the schoolgirl but claimed she was alive when he left her room.

His denials became a familiar theme.

The trial heard he had a previous conviction for rape in Germany and an attempted rape in his native Spain, both of which he denied in a police statement.

He also dismissed his arrest in Florida as a "misunderstanding".

Yet it was revealed he had previously preyed on children in hostels in Britain, Holland, France and Spain.

At a closed committal hearing in February last year, Montes apparently admitted Caroline's murder, only to change his story again before the main trial.

'Having a nightmare'

The week long case in Rennes heard evidence from Caroline's mother, Sue Dickinson, who was concerned about sending her daughter on the school trip to France.

She said: "I was a bit worried because though she knew all the other girls, she didn't have a real good friend so I had asked the teacher to keep an eye on her as she was a bit shy."

Statements were also read out from Caroline's school friends, some of whom shared the room where her murder took place.

Ann Jasper told how she heard noises and saw Caroline's legs shaking, but had thought she was "dreaming and having a nightmare".

Meanwhile, it was revealed Montes had attempted to attack another English schoolgirl at a different hostel on the same night Caroline died.

Sue and John Dickinson
Sue Dickinson described her daughter to the court
The evidence of a forensic policeman, Major Thierry Lezeau, cast doubt on Montes' claim that Caroline was alive when he left the hostel.

Mr Lezeau told the court: "It is very clear to me that the asphyxiation was significant and harsh. She stopped breathing very quickly."

Montes himself repeatedly refused to answer questions in court, but broke down when a statement from his mother was read out.

She claimed she was "repulsed" by her son.

Her comments prompted a rare statement from Montes who acknowledged the extent of his crime saying: "I understand the gravity of what I did.

"I know that the Dickinson family will never forgive me."

After such a long journey from his arrest in Florida, the combination of DNA and witness evidence convicted Montes in a trial lasting just a week.

It also brought to an end the Dickinson family's eight-year fight for justice.

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