I just want to explain, says Caroline Dickinson's killer

The Spanish waiter convicted of the rape and murder of the British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson admitted yesterday for the first time that he had killed her.

At his trial last June, Francisco Arce Montes refused to admit that he had killed Caroline, 13, at a youth hostel in Pleine Fougères, Brittany, in 1996.

Yesterday, on the opening day of his appeal against the murder conviction, Montes, 55, accepted he was responsible for her death. He said he had no intention of killing Caroline. It was "an accident, a misfortune".

Montes, described to the appeal court in St Brieuc as a "sexual predator", said he had not demanded the second trial for his own sake. He was putting the Dickinson family through this ordeal so he could tell them what had really happened that night, he said.

At his first trial in Rennes last June, where he jailed for 30 years, Montes barely spoke. Yesterday he said he had no intention of killing the girl when he entered her dormitory at the youth hostel. He had put his hand over her mouth to stifle her cries while he raped her.

Jean-Luc Bockel, the chairman of the judges, said: "But the problem is she died." Montes replied: "Yes, that is true, I killed her but I had no intention of killing her. It was an accident, a misfortune. It was the result of the rape. I didn't go into her room to kill her. I didn't cover her mouth to kill her.

"First I would like to say I am appealing because I want to explain what happened on that day and the previous days. That wasn't the case in Rennes - I didn't give any explanation."

Montes said that, after taking tranquillisers and alcohol, he had gone to a youth hostel at St Lunaire where he had tried to rape another English girl. He fled when her companions woke and went to the hostel at Pleine Fougères, east of Saint Malo.

Caroline's father, John Dickinson, from Launceston in Cornwall, told the court he would be haunted all his life by the memory of seeing his daughter's body in the morgue. He said: "Life has stuck at the same page for nine years."

He was followed by his daughter Jenny Dickinson, now 20, who spoke in public for the first time about the loss of her "best friend". Ms Dickinson, who was 11 when her sister died, said it had taken six years before she could talk about her loss.

Montes appeared to wipe away a tear as she finished giving her evidence. By bringing the appeal, he risks having his sentence increased.But if his murder conviction is reduced to one of manslaughter, the sentence may be shortened.

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