Described as a “lonely British pensioner”, 74-year-old Robert Dolby is accused of having murdered a woman after inviting her for dinner in his home in 2010 as well as raping and attempting to murder another woman in 2012 whom he had invited to move-in to his flat.
The latter allegedly survived an attempt to take her life after a British neighbour heard her panicked screams and came to her rescue.
Dolby, a convicted sex convict who moved to southeastern France a decade ago, attended the first day of his trial in Nice on Tuesday.
Cindy, a 31-year-old French woman, told the court how she had fallen for Dolby after meeting him in the bar of an upscale Monaco hotel.
“When he complained about being lonely, I felt sorry for him,” she told the court, adding he had acted like a father figure, describing him as “reassuring, protective, thoughtful”.
The two quickly became friends, she said, which prompted her to accept Dolby’s offer of temporarily moving into his flat in Beausoleil, a French town just outside of Monaco.
But soon after moving in, Dolby declared he was in love with her. When she didn’t respond to his advances, the woman said he transformed into another person with a “weird grin and the voice of a monster”.
One night, she said Dolby had entered her bedroom naked and “raped me and tried to strangle me”.
The woman described how she had managed to break free, but that Dolby had caught up with her in front of the lift and “tried to drag me back to the flat."
“I fought with all my might. He beat me all over. He tried to break my neck,” she said, adding that “without the help of a neighbour, I would be dead.”
The neighbour confirmed the account, saying he had “heard a primal scream, like an animal being killed.”
When the neighbour arrived at the scene, Cindy was allegedly covered in blood – suffering a broken nose, multiple bruises and strangle-marks - while Dolby was trying to drag her back into his apartment.
The neighbour said Dolby was a “strange man” who liked to boast about his female conquests. The court also heard how he had told a psychologist about his multiple sexual encounters, mainly with Russian women, after his wife died of cancer in 2009.
Dolby has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying his sexual relations with Cindy were consensual and that he had only attempted to calm her after she became hysterical.
When police began to investigate the incident, however, they found some troubling evidence against the pensioner in another case.
In 2010, a 60-year-old woman named Annie-Claude died in his former home in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, also on the Côte d’Azur.
The woman, whose death was initially blamed on a cardiac arrest after a boozy dinner, was found half-naked on Dolby’s couch, next to a cushion covered in lipstick.
But when her body was exhumed for further investigation, toxicology tests found traces of Zolpidem – an extremely powerful sleeping pill often prescribed to people suffering from insomnia – casting suspicion on Dolby.
The Briton already had a long record of previous convictions.
In 1991, Dolby was found guilty for sexually assaulting a work colleague and sentenced to four years in prison .
He also has more than a dozen previous convictions, mostly for theft and burglary.
If convicted in the current case, he could face life imprisonment for murder.