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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
A sinister charmer
Sid Ahmed Rezala
Rezala had a long criminal record including rape
Sid Ahmed Rezala, who committed suicide awaiting extradition for the murder of Isabel Peake, was a personable man and doting father whose life spiralled into violence as a teenager, say those who knew him.

French police believe he was a real-life Jeckyll and Hyde character with a sinister, disturbing side bubbling just below the surface.


French police
Rezala sparked a massive Europe-wide manhunt
He was facing extradition to France over the murder of Isabel Peake, 20, a British exchange student whose battered body was found beside railway tracks in central France in October.

He was also believed to have killed Corinne Caillaux and Emilie Bazin.

Born in El Bar, Algeria, on 13 May 1979, Rezala moved with his parents, two brothers and sister to the southern French port of Marseilles in 1994.

According to friends and officials who dealt with him over the last five years, Rezala showed the first signs of delinquency at the age of 15 shortly after his family moved.

The son of a mechanic, he had done well at school in Algeria, but in Marseille began to spend his time with drug dealers and petty criminals.

His criminal record since obtained by some French newspapers shows as well as petty theft, he had been imprisoned for violent crime and sexual offences, including a serious sexual assault on a 14-year-old boy in 1995.

Rejcetion

But between his jail terms, Rezala successfully worked as an apprentice baker. Good-looking and cheerful, he made friends easily.

He met his girlfriend Nadia Abdelmalek in 1997 and she had his baby daughter a year later.

In the same year he was sent to a young offenders institution at Lyunes, France, for pulling a knife on a French railway employee.

During his incarceration Ms Abdelmalek told him she was setting up home with another man.

Incensed by the rejection, Rezala is thought to have roamed France on near-deserted night trains after his release in June last year - taking revenge on women.

But, despite the innate cunning that allowed him to evade capture for so long, investigators said it was his continuing attachment to Ms Abdelmalek that led to his downfall and subsequent arrest in Lisbon on 12 January.

Confession

Having fled to the Portuguese capital via Spain, Rezala made a phone call to his girlfriend from a public call box - unaware that investigators in France had tapped her phone.

Plainclothes officers swooped and the lengthy judicial process for extradition began.

In a controversial interview in French magazine Le Figaro last month, Rezala confessed to the murder of Ms Peake.

Her told a French journalist Aziz Zemouri that he saw a flash and felt "ordered" to kill her.

High on drink and drugs, he approached her at Limoges train station.

"She was going to Paris and planned to go on to England to see her bloke. She wanted to call him," he told the magazine.


Caxias prison hospital in Portugal
Caxias prison hospital where Rezala was being held
"She asked to use my mobile phone. I lent it to her. I have always helped other people. She telephoned her bloke and took a drag on my joint. I saw that flash again."

Rezala did not describe what happened next but an hour into the journey, Ms Peake was pushed from the train, possibly after a sexual assault.

Rezala added: "If anyone had done that to someone from my family, I would have killed the guilty person, I would have ripped his heart out and I would have eaten it."

The confession prompted fury from Ms Peake's parents and their lawyer claimed Rezala's behaviour, and media interview, were an act to appear mentally unstable because in France a killer with severe psychiatric problems cannot be brought to trial.

French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement was also critical and said he doubted the article's authenticity.

But French police were reported to have said that Rezala made similar comments in off-the-record conversations with them.

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29 Jun 00 | Europe
Peake murder suspect found dead
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