Britain in plea over Caroline's murderer

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The Independent Online
The British Government is to ask French ministers to intervene in the case of 13-year-old Caroline Dickinson, who was murdered on a school trip to Brittany a year ago.

After a 90-minute meeting with the schoolgirl's parents John and Sue Dickinson, Lady Symons, the Foreign Office minister, pledged her support for the family's efforts to step up the investigation into the murder at a youth hostel in the village of Pleine Fougeres. She said: "We will urge the French authorities to look at the way in which the murder is being investigated and to give us some clear indication of how they propose to take the matter further."

At a later press conference Mr Dickinson welcomed Lady Symons's support and called for the replacement of the French examining magistrate Gerard Zaug "if necessary" to speed up the inquiry. Repeating a call for parents and children to avoid the Brittany area, where Caroline, from Launceston, Cornwall, was raped and killed a year ago this week, Mr Dickinson warned the killer could strike again.

Making clear his frustration at the lack of progress in the murder case he said: "I feel that the mentality of this individual means that he may well strike again. My only fear is that this is the only way in which he is going to be caught."

In a prepared statement from him and his estranged wife Mr Dickinson spoke movingly of the loss of their "quiet, gentle teenager" who would always be remembered with love and pride.

He said the investigation had been hampered by undue secrecy and known blunders. "A cloud of controversy, now fuelled by a lack of confidence in the competence of the investigating magistrate has highlighted the major differences between the British and French legal and policing systems."

He also referred to other unsolved murders of Britons in France, highlighting the case of Joanne Parrish, who was killed seven years ago.

The family and their lawyers are pushing for an extension of DNA testing in the area in the belief that the killer may well be local and want an appeal for new witnesses to come forward. Their French lawyer, Herve Rouzad- le-Boeuf, said one option was to meet the French Minister of Justice in the autumn if no progress had been made by then.

The family's local Liberal Democrat MP Paul Tyler, who was at the meeting, said the presence of two new governments in France and Britain offered the chance to make fresh progress. He welcomed Lady Symons's promise to take a "close regular personal interest". Mr Tyler, MP for North Cornwall, said Caroline's murder and events in the following year had highlighted the lack of a proper support system for the families of victims in the UK and indicated that the government may also take action to help set up a formal network.