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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
'Luck' led to Caroline's killer
Tommy Ontko
Tommy Ontko read about the murder in The Sunday Times
The US immigration officer whose actions led to the arrest of Caroline Dickinson's murderer has said good fortune led him to the killer.

Francisco Arce Montes was arrested in the US in 2001, five years after he murdered Cornish schoolgirl Caroline.

US records revealed that Montes had been detained for sex offences.

Immigration officer Tommy Ontko spotted Caroline's story in an English newspaper and linked the crime to the Spaniard Montes.

Mr Ontko told the BBC: "It's been a very long ordeal for the family and I just hope this verdict gives the family some sense of closure.

It was a bit of good luck, granted, but any time good luck comes along in a case you take it and you run with it
Tommy Ontko
"You have to commend the efforts of the Dickinson family for keeping this before the public, so I think the jury has done a very good thing in keeping him off the streets and the public will feel safer with him behind bars."

By the time of the inquest into 13-year-old Caroline's death in 2001, Montes was one of nearly 50 suspects.

Seven thousand miles away at Detroit Airport, Mr Ontko returned from an investigation with Canadian Police via an entrance he would never normally use.

He walked past a newsstand he would never normally see.

He picked up a newspaper he would never normally read - a copy of the Sunday Times - because it had a picture on the front page of police weapons he was interested in.

He then read about the Caroline Dickinson investigation.

He said: "I thought this case has been going on for some time and they don't have the guy yet.

"To me it was just quite natural to say, well, if the French police are looking for him elsewhere let's see if maybe he attempted entry into the United States."

Montes arrest
Montes was blamed for a string of sex offences across Europe
Mr Ontko ran checks on various databases. Within 15 minutes he had a possible match.

Having identified Montes, the next step was to discover where he was.

He had been arrested in Florida on suspicion of breaking into a budget hotel hostel and molesting a sleeping Irish girl.

Mr Ontko said: "When I heard the MO that was used, young females in a dormitory or in a youth hostel type of environment in Florida, early in the morning, I said, now we're really focussing on the guy, we might just have the guy who might be responsible.

"It was a bit of good luck, granted, but any time good luck comes along in a case you take it and you run with it while you can."

For years the French investigation into Caroline's murder had drawn a blank.

Police originally arrested a local vagrant and wrongly declared they had caught the culprit. Within a week DNA tests proved he was not the killer.

Soon after being contacted by Mr Ontko, French police were able to confirm that DNA traces found in the dormitory of the hostel in Pleine Fougeres and from a sample taken from Montes in Miami matched.

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