Rape case clue to death of Briton

A man accused of raping a girl near Paris is to undergo DNA testing next week in connection with the unsolved murder of the British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson. It is 17 months since Caroline, 13, was raped and suffocated in a hostel in the village of Pleine Fougeres, Brittany.

The 30-year-old man was arrested near Versailles on 19 December on suspicion of raping a 10-year-old girl in her home. He allegedly confessed, blaming a "sudden impulse".

Caroline Dickinson was on a school trip with fellow pupils from Launceston Community College when she was murdered on the night of 18 July 1996. Within hours of launching their inquiry, French police said they had arrested the killer.

A vagrant was charged after investigators said he had confessed. A fortnight later, DNA tests showed he was not the rapist. In the meantime, officers had halted their inquiries.

Caroline's parents, John and Sue Dickinson, from Bodmin, Cornwall, pressed for the original magistrate, Gerald Zaug, to be taken off the case; he was, a year after their daughter's murder. His replacement, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, came to Britain last month to follow up clues and ordered all men in the village where Caroline was killed to undergo genetic tests. These have so far proved negative.

Detectives yesterday played down reports that the 30-year-old man's case is to be transferred to Mr Van Ruymbeke. They said the testing is routine.

On the night of Caroline's death four other girls slept nearby. The following morning, after her body was discovered, one pupil remembered hearing a tapping noise, apparently made as Caroline struggled with the killer.

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