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Tuesday, 2 December, 1997, 01:32 GMT
DNA testing draws a blank in murder inquiry
The hunt for the sex killer of British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson has suffered another setback following results that a second round of DNA tests have proved negative.

The voluntary genetic tests conducted by French police in November surveyed saliva samples of 252 men aged 35 to 60 in the Brittany village of Pleine-Fougeres, where the 13-year-old was murdered in July last year.

Caroline was raped and strangled in a shared hostel dormitory while on a school trip with pupils and staff from Launceston Community College in Cornwall.

The first round of voluntary testing, conducted in October, involved 169 males aged 15 to 35, and no suspects were found in the small village of 1,800 people.

All samples taken in both rounds of DNA testing have proved negative when compared with the genetic fingerprint of the killer left on Caroline's body, according to French legal sources.

"Following the results, all samples are destroyed and the people who did not appear will not be pursued," said a statement by the prosecutor's office of the Rennes Court of Appeals.

But French investigators said testing could extended to nearby villages in the coming weeks. "If there are new tests, they would be more focused," a judicial source said.

Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke, leading the investigation, travelled to Britain last month with the genetic samples of the murderer to compare with the genetic fingerprints of 200,000 known suspects and convicted criminals in the UK.

In August last year French police interviewed staff and children from Launceston College. DNA samples taken from five Launceston college schoolboys who were on the Pleine Fougeres trip, as well as from two male teachers and a coach driver, all proved negative.

Investigators remain convinced of a link between a man who was discovered in the room of an English girl in a youth hostel in nearby Saint Lunaire, a town in the same region as Pleine-Fougeres and the murder of Caroline Dickinson.

Similar incidents were reported from June to August in the area.

The mass DNA testing stems from efforts by Caroline Dickinson's father, John. Though unusual, DNA testing of an entire town has been tried in Britain with some success. In Wales last year, a killer was caught in such a roundup.

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