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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Sordid evidence in opulent court

By Valerie Jones
BBC Correspondent in Rennes

The trial has been taking place in a courtroom of impressive opulence, with ornate guilt plasterwork and a ceiling painted with clouds.

John Dickinson (right) and his former wife Sue (left) and their daughter  Jenny (middle)
The Dickinson family were praised for their composure

What has been heard in court though has been much more sordid.

The jury heard of events that night in the hostel in Brittany in 1996 when Francisco Arce Montes crept into a bedroom and raped and killed a 13-year-old girl.

Mr Montes has said little as his shocking history as a sexual predator has been read out in court.

A list of offences that go back 30 years has been detailed - rapes in Germany committed at knifepoint, a pattern of attacks in hostels in five different countries and the targets were mostly young girls.

Caroline Dickinson's parents have been sitting only a few feet away from him. The start of the trial was the first time they had come face to face with the man accused of killing their daughter.

But they have remained calm.

Tribute has been paid in court to their dignity and courage. But their lawyer has said underneath there is also a fragility.

For eight years they have been waiting for this trial to finally get justice for their daughter.

But they've had to listen to evidence of what was done to her that has been too unpleasant to report.

At one point he [Montes] became animated - when the length of time he might spend in prison was being discussed
And they have had a reminder that for possibly two minutes she was struggling for her life while Mr Montes was suffocating her with a pad of cotton wool over her mouth and nose.

Two of the girls from her school, Launceston College in Cornwall, gave evidence of what they saw that night. A strange man hiding in the shadows at the hostel.

It happened eight years ago and they have now grown up. But as they remembered in court, they were close to tears.

Mr Montes has apparently reacted little to what's been going on, looking into the distance or keeping his head bowed.

At one point he became animated - when the length of time he might spend in prison was being discussed.

His own lawyer said he had warned Mr Montes that at the age of 54 he might never come out of jail.

But, his lawyer told the court, Mr Montes' deepest wish was to return one day to his home country of Spain.

Mr Montes nodded enthusiastically but it is hard to imagine there were many in the court sympathetic to his wish.

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