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

Sunday, 19 December, 1999, 07:30 GMT
French fail to trap murder suspect

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

French police have admitted a massive manhunt for the suspected killer of Briton Isabel Peake has failed, amid accusations of a bungled inquiry.

Raids on a series of squats and flats in Marseilles failed to flush out Sid Ahmed Rezala, 20, the convicted rapist thought to have killed Ms Peake and two others in a three-month murder spree across France.

Photo-fit picture of the suspect Photo-fit picture of the suspect
The suspect is feared to have gone into hiding after reporters visited his family home before police were able to produce an arrest warrant.

The delay was caused by bureaucratic wrangling, which has led to accusations that the inquiry has been bungled.

Sources close to inquiry said they were disappointed at failing "to find the bird in its nest" as the search of the Algerian-born fugitive's haunts and potential hiding places continued.

Detectives said they were still confident of capturing Rezala, who is believed to be in the Marseille area without the funds to escape abroad.

A Dijon police spokesman said: "We believe he will find it difficult to leave the Marseille region. In the meantime, all efforts continue to apprehend this man."

Police earlier released four people, said to include one man "close to the family", and said they did not believe relatives of Rezala knew where he was hiding.

Train deaths

Rezala is 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, Staffordshire, 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.

Third victim

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.

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

Police say the woman was "very probably" a 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.

Isabel Peake poster A poster appealing for information about the student
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 been criticised in Britain for a series of delays in identifying Ms Peake's body and launching a murder inquiry.

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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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