Is Romano van der Dussen innocent? Confession triggers questions over innocent man in jail

Pieter Omtzigt has written to the Council of Europe to raise the case of Romano van der Dussen, who was convicted of three violent sexual assaults

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The Independent Online

A senior Dutch MP has criticised the British and Spanish authorities over the “judicial failures” that have kept an innocent man in prison for almost 12 years.

Pieter Omtzigt has written to the Council of Europe to raise the case of Romano van der Dussen, who was convicted of three violent sexual assaults on the Costa del Sol.

Last week, Mark Dixie from Streatham admitted to carrying out one of the attacks for which Van der Dussen was jailed. He claimed not to remember the other two attacks, saying he suffers from blackouts.

Dixie, serving a life sentence for raping and murdering 18-year-old Sally Anne Bowman in south London, made his confession to Van der Dussen’s lawyer, Rachel Imamkhan, who will use it as part of an appeal at the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Van der Dussen, 42, was sentenced to 15 and a half years in 2005 for the 2003 attacks.

Both the Spanish and British police have known since 2006 that Dixie carried out at least one of the assaults in Spain. Dixie’s DNA was found on one of the victims – a fact known to Spain’s National Police, the Metropolitan Police and Interpol.

The attacks took place within a few hundred yards of each other in a two-hour period, and police and prosecutors argued that they were carried out by the same man.

Last week, after Dixie’s confession, Mr Omtzigt submitted a written question to the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe asking  why Van der Dussen remains in prison in Spain.

The Committee, made up of member-states’ foreign ministers including the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has two months to respond to the letter.

In it Mr Omtzigt asked what steps the Council will take to guarantee “member-states ... ensure an effective police and judicial co-operation from the preliminary investigation, through the trial stage, to post-trial”.

 He added: “Despite the overwhelming evidence that Mr Van der Dussen is not guilty, his case has not yet come up for revision by the Spanish courts.

  “And despite his confession, despite the DNA match, the Spanish authorities have not opened a case against Mr Dixie.”