Man goes on trial for Caroline's murder

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The man accused of the savage rape and murder of Cornish schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson admitted today a history of stalking youth hostels across Europe for sex.

The man accused of the savage rape and murder of Cornish schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson admitted today a history of stalking youth hostels across Europe for sex.

Francisco Arce Montes had a preference for girls aged between 12 and 15, the opening day of his trial in Rennes, France, was told by a court official.

Before Caroline's tragic death, he had preyed on children in youth hostels in Britain, Holland, France and Spain.

Earlier on the night Caroline died in an attack lasting less than two minutes, Montes had tried, unsuccessfully, to assault another English girl in a separate youth hostel.

Frustrated by his failure, he drove 12 miles and broke into the hostel where Caroline and 40 other pupils of Launceston College in Cornwall were sleeping.

Caroline died "in tens of seconds and a maximum of two minutes", the court was told.

The full shocking details of the attack were revealed for the first time in aone-hour outline of the prosecution case by the senior court official.

Through it all, Caroline's parents John, 45, and his 46-year-old former wife Sue sat with their other daughter Jenny, 19, listening intently.

Montes, a 54-year-old waiter from Spain, sat blank-faced and seemingly unconcerned as the details of his sexual offences were read out.

Mostly he stared ahead of him across the courtroom, gazing just above the benches where the Dickinsons sat.

Occasionally he fiddled with the ear-piece of the headphones translating the evidence into his native Spanish.

At no time did he react visibly to the grim litany of his activities.When it was over, presiding judge Fabienne Doroy looked across at the defendant and said: "Do you agree with what has been said?"

Montes continued looking blank.

Then after a pause he muttered: "Would you like me to answer? I agree."

The trial is expected to last at least a week in the elaborate gilt-decoratedRennes courtroom.

Montes has been awaiting trial since his arrest in Miami and extradition to France in November 2001.

He is charged with raping and murdering 13-year-old Caroline at a youth hostel in the village of Pleine Fougeres, Brittany, in July 1996.

Caroline was sleeping in a dormitory with fellow pupils when she was attacked in the night and discovered dead in the morning.

Her attacker had broken in without disturbing any of the other sleeping children.For five years French investigation drew a blank.

But Montes, a former lorry driver, was arrested and extradited from America in 2001 after a chance breakthrough.

US customs investigator Tommy Ontko had read about Caroline's murder and the unsuccessful hunt for the killer in a British newspaper.

He made the connection to a Spanish man arrested for a similar attack in Miami.

Montes was extradited after a DNA sample linked him to the murder scene in the Breton village.He has a string of convictions for sex offences.

In 1974 he was arrested for indecently exposing himself to two women in his home town of Gijon.

In 1980 he was convicted of indecency in Bremen, Germany, and nine years later was jailed for five and a half years for attempted rape in that country.

Multilingual Montes worked as a waiter in London between 1993 and 1997 but made trips across the Channel to France.

In 1994 he was held by French police after twice breaking into a schoolgirl's hostel room.But he was let off with a caution.

Two years later he allegedly raped and murdered Caroline.

In August, 1997, Montes was charged with the attempted rape of a 19-year-old Spanish holidaymaker in Llanes, Spain.

He was released on bail but fled to Florida.

Montes was arrested in Miami Beach in late 2000 after breaking into a hostel there, and was charged with trespass but freed.

In March, 2001, he was arrested for another sex crime and that enabled Mr Ontko to make the link.