French murders suspect slips net

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A SERIES of dawn police raids on squats in Marseilles yesterday failed to flush out the serial killer believed to have murdered the British student, Isabel Peake, and two other women.

Two men, who are suspected of withholding information on the whereabouts of Sid Ahmed Rezala, 20, were held for questioning. Acting on a tip-off, police also searched two trains in Nice railway station on Friday night, again without success.

Police sources say that Rezala is thought to be in the Marseilles area, despite reports that he might have slipped out of the country, possibly to his native Algeria.

Criticism is growing in France of the ponderous efforts to arrest the suspected three-time killer in the first 48 hours after the discovery of a brutally stabbed and dying 36-year-old woman in a train near Dijon on Monday morning.

Rezala is known to have spent most of the next two days at his parents' home in Marseilles. Local police were watching the house but could not search it, because they did not have a search and arrest warrant from the Dijon magistrate who is running the investigation. By the time the warrant was issued on Thursday, the suspect had left the house without being seen.

The reasons for the delay remain obscure, but one Marseilles police source said that the magistrate had waited to give the Dijon police time to complete local inquiries before travelling south and claiming the credit for the arrest.

The embarrassment of investigators has been compounded by the discovery on Friday of the decomposing body of a 20-year-old sociology student, Emlie Bazin, in the cellar of a house where Rezala had been squatting in Amiens in northern France. Ms Bazin was probably killed before the second train victim, Corinne Caillaux.