Caroline suspect admits sex assault

The man accused of murdering Cornish schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson has admitted that he sexually assaulted her but denied he was a killer.

Spanish waiter Francisco Arce Montes told a court in Rennes, in Brittany, that he was drunk, sexually aroused and had taken pills when he broke into Dickinson's youth hostel room in Pleine-Fougeres in the early hours of July 18 1996.

Finding Caroline asleep, he lay next to her, caressed her and masturbated, keeping his hand over her mouth the whole time.

Montes told a stunned courtroom that he committed the offence after being interrupted while attempting another sexual assault earlier that day.

Speaking slowly and monotonously in Spanish, he said: "I was aroused. I wanted to do what I had done before so I placed my hand over her mouth.

"I lifted up the covers and I wanted to stroke her. Then I masturbated and after masturbating I was still aroused. I think I started stroking her again and then I left to go to Cherbourg."

Caroline's parents John and Sue and their daughter Jenny, 19, watched as Montes added: "I'd like to say I am not a murderer.

"I didn't have any intention at all of killing Caroline. I didn't want to kill her. I am incapable of killing anyone. I am not a murderer. I just wanted to make a sexual assault."

Earlier Montes told the court he had been intending to leave France on the day of Caroline's murder but had been forced to stay an extra day due to boat delays.

He said he had spent the day drinking whisky and taking pills.

Caroline's mother described the last time she spoke to her daughter. Taking the witness box, Sue Dickinson said: "She phoned to say France was great but the hostel's 'crappy'. That was the last I heard of her."

Mrs Dickinson, 46, paid tribute to her daughter, saying she was "just a normal 13-year-old girl".

Caroline was a happy, musical girl who loved school, she said.

Mrs Dickinson said she was concerned before sending Caroline on the school trip to Brittany because she was a shy girl.

"I was a bit worried because though she knew all the other girls, she didn't have a real good friend so I had asked the teacher to keep an eye on her as she was a bit shy."

Speaking in a very composed manner, Mrs Dickinson said: "Caroline was a happy child who loved music and played the clarinet. Her best friend was her sister."

Caroline had been a member of the school orchestra, a Brownie and had also taken ballet lessons, her mother said.

"She adored school, she absolutely loved it and got good school reports."

Mrs Dickinson was asked about her daughter's relationship with her father John, 45. The couple had divorced several years before Caroline's death.

She said: "We never had any problems with the children. They saw John regularly. There were never any difficulties."

Mrs Dickinson said photographs of Caroline circulating in the media made her look a lot older than she was.

"They were taken for a school fashion show," she said.

"The family were a bit shocked when they saw them.

"She was a slim girl, with long skinny legs. She was not a good eater."

John Dickinson and Caroline's sister Jenny, 19, were asked if they wanted to add anything but they declined to speak to the court at this stage.

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