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Nick Springate reports for BBC News
"The whole investigation has been widely criticised"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 17:31 GMT
French rail murder suspect arrested

Isabel Peake's body was found by a railway line


A man suspected of three murders in France - including that of British student Isabel Peake - has been arrested in Portugal.

French police said Sid Ahmed Rezala was arrested on Tuesday afternoon in the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

Rezala: Arrested in Lisbon
The 20-year-old is the chief suspect in the murder of Ms Peake, from Staffordshire, whose body was found near a railway line on 13 October last year.

She had been a passenger on a night train from Limoges to Paris.

Rezala, is also suspected of killing Emile Bazin, a 20-year-old student at Amiens in northern France, and Corinne Caillaux, 36, whose body was found with stab wounds on the night train from Calais to Italy on 14 December.

Posters

Rezala was arrested by French and Portuguese police following a Europe-wide search by detectives.

Thousands of posters featuring Rezala's face, were pasted up across France in a bid to track the fugitive down.

A French police spokesman at Orleans confirmed on Tuesday that Rezala had been arrested.

He said: "At the moment details about the circumstances of the arrest are very sketchy.

"But I can confirm that Rezala was apprehended by officers in Lisbon, Portugal, in the early afternoon."

Time to flee

French police have been accused of bungling the investigation into the murder of Birmingham University student Ms Peake, from Barlaston, Staffordshire, after Rezala escaped arrest in Marseille.

Bureaucracy was blamed for hampering the attempt to arrest him, giving him time to flee.

Rezala has been the chief suspect in the inquiry into Ms Peake's murder 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.

Set free

Rezala was freed in June from a prison near the city where he had served time for "voluntary violence with a knife".

He was arrested a month on a high-speed train from Berne to Paris on 13 November - a month after the death of Ms Peake.

French customs officers found him in possession of cannabis, a knife and a tear gas grenade.

But despite being listed as a suspect for the murder, Rezala spent just a few hours in custody before being set free on the orders of the public prosecutor.

He appeared to have slipped through the net again when detectives went to his parents' home in Marseille, where he was believed to be hiding.

Study programme

Due to a delay in asking a judge for a warrant, officers were turned away by the suspect's father - and when they returned the following day Rezala had gone.

Ms Peake was hurled to her death from a train on the first leg of her journey back to her home.

The law and sociology student was in France after starting a year-long study programme in the central French city of Limoges as part of her degree.

Her semi-naked body was discovered by a dog-walker besides the railway tracks at Chabernet, a small disused station 75 miles north of Limoges.

It took police six days to identify Miss Peake and it was first thought she may have fallen accidentally from the train.

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See also:
19 Dec 99 |  UK
French fail to trap murder suspect
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'

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