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Thursday, February 19, 1998 Published at 16:35 GMT

World: Europe

Police frustrated in 'Beast of Bastille' inquiry
image: [ The killings have brought terror to the eastern district of Paris ]
The killings have brought terror to the eastern district of Paris

French police today suffered a setback in their hunt for the so-called "Beast of Bastille" after DNA tests showed a suspect arrested in London was not connected with the crimes.

The man, who was being questioned in connection with immigration offences, was suspected by French police of being involved with the murder of up to seven women in the Bastille area of Paris.

But DNA samples sent to Scotland Yard for identification failed to link the man with the killings.

The search for the serial killer has been one of the most intensive launched in France and has lasted several years.

Murders sparked panic in the Bastille

French police are sure that a single man is responsible for the murder and rape of three women in the eastern Paris neighbourhood between 1994 and 1997.

They say there is a strong chance he killed a fourth woman and may have slain up to three others in unsolved crimes dating back to 1991.

The murders sparked panic in the Bastille, with women fearing to venture into the area alone after dark.

Investigators believe the killer is aged between 25-30, of North African descent, athletic and speaks French without an accent.

The description came from a woman who was followed home and tied to her bed by the man in 1995, but managed to escape by jumping from a window.

Forensic clues to killer's identity

The killer's DNA, traces of which were found in saliva on a cigarette butt left at the flat of one of his victims, has been matched with samples found on the bodies of the three women.

Police also say a bloody footprint showed the murderer's second toe on his left foot was longer than the first.

All the victims lived alone. They were raped and had their throats slit with a razor or a knife.

There has been intense media speculation that the killer may have committed other murders and the gory reporting of his crimes have had a big impact in France, which is more used to seeing serial murders as an American phenomenon.

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