Ex-concierge accused of serial rape goes on trial in France

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LILLE: A former concierge accused of dozens of rapes and sexual assaults in France and Belgium over several decades will go on trial in France on Friday, after admitting to a series of assaults.

Dino Scala, known as the “rapist of the Sambre” – after the river near several towns along the Franco-Belgian border where he operated – was arrested in 2018 in northern France.

He confessed to about forty rapes and assaults which he attributed to uncontrollable “compulsions”.

The youngest victim was 13, the oldest 48, and most were attacked in the same way – surprised on deserted streets in the early hours of winter, strangled and dragged into nearby bushes or trees.

Scala, now 61, is a former janitor at an industrial site who was also the head of a local football club and has been described as well-integrated and sociable by residents of his town of Pont- sur-Sambre after his arrest.

“He confesses freely from the start” and wants to “explain himself and answer questions”, said his lawyer Margaux Mathieu.

He is charged with 17 accounts of rape, 12 attempted rapes and 27 sexual assaults or attempts – for 56 victims in total, although investigators suspect other victims did not come forward to police.

“They hope to finally put behind them what happened to them, to have a beginning of an explanation, and to be heard and understood,” said the lawyer for three of his accusers, Caty Richard.

Police searched for the suspect in November 1996, when a 28-year-old woman said she had been raped along a motorway near Maubeuge. Investigators found the attacker’s DNA at the scene but found no matches in police databases.

Other similar attacks followed, with more than 15 alleged victims over two years.

Despite increased patrols, the attacker was never found and the case was closed in 2003.

But three years later, a new series of assaults in Belgium reignited the investigation and police began to suspect that other earlier cases in the region could be linked to the same man.

It wasn’t until February 2018, when a teenager was assaulted in Erquelinnes, Belgium, that CCTV cameras spotted a Peugeot car at the scene, and Scala was arrested weeks later.

A knife, gloves and cords that could be used as tourniquets were found during the searches, and DNA matches were made at several crime scenes.

After his arrest, he told investigators how he carried out his attacks.

“I was hanging out…I was watching where the women were going,” he said.

“I like to be secretive and hide…I have the nature of a hunter.” -AFP

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