Conviction 'draws line under' Caroline murder

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The Independent Online

The former headmaster of murdered Cornwall schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson has said the conviction of her killer will "draw a line under the case."

Addressing a press conference at Launceston College, Cornwall, Alan Wroath spoke of his relief that Francisco Arce Montes could not "continue his wave of assaults on young women".

Caroline, 13, from Launceston, was on a school trip to France when she was killed by the Spanish sex predator nearly eight years ago.

Geoff Aver, Cornwall County Council's director of education, said many lessons had been learnt from the teenager's death.

As a result of the tragedy there was a "new climate" for the organising ofschool trips, said Mr Aver.

He added: "There is a much greater vigour about examining every aspect of what is likely to happen before we do a trip."

Mr Aver defended Launceston College teachers' handling of the visit to Brittany in July 1996, referring to the unsuccessful civil action against Cornwall local education authority brought by Caroline's mother Sue in 1999.

He said: "You need to remember that the whole conduct of this trip was tested in law, and the school was found to have been absolutely right within what we knew at the time to be best practice."

Montes, 54, from Gigon, was yesterday jailed for 30 years for the murder of a minor preceded, accompanied, or followed by rape.

Caroline died on July 18, 1996, within inches of four sleeping schoolfriends in a youth hostel in the Brittany village of Pleine-Fougeres.

Mr Wroath today spoke fondly of his "very precious" former pupil, a "sensitive young girl who had a great deal of personality and character".

He said: "The past week has brought back very vividly for all of us the painful memories of 1996.

"I should like to pay tribute to the professionalism and courage of the teachers who have given evidence at the trial, and particularly to our former students who have relived their ordeal."

The headmaster praised the "composure and dignity" shown by Caroline's parents, Sue and John, and her younger sister, Jenny, in "circumstances that represent their worst nightmare, and ours".

Mr Wroath added the school had "shared thoughts and memories" of Caroline in assemblies last week.

He went on: "Our feelings at this time are of relief - relief that this man cannot continue his wave of assaults of young women, relief that others may be spared the anguish that he has caused to us, and relief that perhaps now the case will be allowed to move out of the public gaze.

"In this way the trial will draw a line under the case, but for all of us who have been involved, it is not something we shall ever forget, and we shall always remember Caroline."

It has emerged that police may investigate the activities of Montes during the time he lived in Britain.

Supt Andy Pierce, of the Devon and Cornwall force, has said they will explore what information was held by the French authorities "with a view to making more inquiries about Montes' activities in the UK".

But any investigation would have to wait until any appeal by Montes was dealt with, said the officer, who was with the Dickinson family during the trial in Rennes, Brittany.