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Jon Sopel reports for BBC News
"When police arrived he had gone into hiding"
 real 28k

Saturday, 18 December, 1999, 18:33 GMT
Isabel police accused of blunders

Isabel Peake's partially clothed body was found two months ago

French police hunting the killer of three young women, including British student Isabel Peake, have been accused of more blunders in their investigation.

Their chief suspect, 20-year-old Sid Ahmed Rezala, is feared to have gone into hiding after police told journalists of his identity before arresting him.

Reporters visited Rezala's family home in Marseille while police were delayed by bureaucratic wrangling over the arrest warrant.

Photo-fit picture of the suspect Photo-fit picture of the suspect
It has since been learned that Rezala spent the night at the house, but vanished before police arrived.

Officers believe Rezala may have used the visit to wash his clothes and destroy vital forensic evidence.

Rezala was being hunted in connection with the deaths of Ms Peake and a French woman, Corinne Caillaux, who were both killed on night trains.

The battered body of Ms Peake, a Birmingham University student from Barlaston, Staffs, was found by the side of the railway line 75 miles north of Limoges on 13 October. She had been travelling on the Brive to Paris express service.

The body of Ms Caillaux, 36, was found in the lavatory of a train travelling from Calais to Ventimiglia, just over the Italian border, earlier this week.

She had died from multiple stab wounds, including cuts to her throat, during a frenzied attack while her six-year-old son slept in a nearby compartment.

Massive hunt

After missing Rezala in Marseille, police found a third body in an apartment block in the northern French town of Amiens, known to have been visited regularly by him.

The young woman's corpse was found under a pile of coal in the cellar of the building.

Police say the woman was "very probably" 20-year-old sociology student, Emilie Bazine, who had been reported missing and who was known to have had a boyfriend called Sid.

After that discovery, the manhunt was stepped up. Trains were stopped and searched in Nice, and about 100 officers were combing Marseille on Saturday.

Isabel Peake poster A poster appealing for information about the student
They said they were confident Rezala was still in the city, because he had no money and no obvious place of refuge.

The man's father, who lives with his family in the Belle-de-mai area of the city, is said to have made an appeal for his son to come forward to answer police inquiries.

Algerian-born Rezala had a long history of psychiatric illness and a series of convictions for offences including rape, robbery and stabbings.

He has been the chief suspect since the body of Ms Caillaux was found.

Detectives were able to identify him after his name was taken by an SNCF inspector for travelling on the Calais-Ventimiglia train without a ticket.

He is also thought to resemble a man seen talking to Ms Peake before she boarded the train at Limoges.

French police have previously been criticised in Britain for a series of delays in identifying Ms Peake's body after its discovery in October and launching a murder inquiry, losing vital days in the hunt for her killer.

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See also:
17 Dec 99 |  UK
Isabel detectives find third body
17 Dec 99 |  UK
Rail murder suspect 'may have fled'
15 Dec 99 |  UK
French train deaths 'must be linked'
11 Dec 99 |  Europe
Family's 'goodbye' to murdered student
26 Nov 99 |  Europe
Police step up rail death inquiry
03 Nov 99 |  UK
Police hunt gang over student death
23 Oct 99 |  UK
Student's death 'was not suicide'
21 Oct 99 |  UK
Student death 'could be murder'

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