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Frenchman admits raping and assaulting 40 women since 1990s

A French man was charged Wednesday after confessing to raping and sexually assaulting "around forty" women in a series of attacks since the 1990s.

Frenchman admits raping and assaulting 40 women since 1990s
Illustration photo: AFP
Married 57-year-old father Dino Scala was arrested Monday after police used his number plates to connect him with the rape of a woman last week across the border in Belgium.
   
DNA evidence then matched him to that found on several rape victims.
   
The man, who is from the northern French town of Pont-sur-Sambre near the Belgian border, confessed under police questioning to attacks on women dating back decades.
 
“He estimates the number of victims at around forty,” Jean-Philippe Vicentini, prosecutor in nearby Valenciennes, told reporters.
 
   
He was arrested in connection with an investigation opened in 1996 into attacks on 19 women and underage girls, the prosecutor said.
   
Vicentini said the man always used the same method to prey on his victims.
   
“The women were attacked from behind, very early in the morning,” he said.
   
“He wore gloves and masked his face, either completely or partially — with a hat, for example,” Vicentini said, adding that the suspect claimed he “acted on compulsions he was unable to control”.
 
The Voix du Nord local newspaper reported that the attacker, who was arrested in his car in his hometown, worked as a janitor.
   
The man is believed to be one of the most prolific serial rapists France has seen in decades.
   
In 2015, a 40-year-old man was charged with 33 counts of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault from 1995 to 2000, most of them in the Senart forest south of Paris.

WILDFIRES

French police track forest fire-starters by air and land

On the ground, two officers from a special mobile brigade of France's paramilitary gendarmerie speed along a forest track.

French police track forest fire-starters by air and land

Above them, a helicopter scans the landscape to warn them of any fires or anyone who might be looking to start one.

These are the members of a newly created police team who have just started patrolling in southwest France to seek out and arrest the fire-starters devastating the region’s forests.

In the last week, no less than 20 fires have broken out in the forest bordering the seaside resort of Soulac-sur-Mer in the La Gironde department of southwest France, says the local gendarmerie.

While some have burned for just a 100 square metres (322 square feet), the largest devoured 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest.

Scorched trees and charred trunks line the paths and cycle paths that criss-cross the woods.

To stop the devastation, local officials have sent in the new unit, the Forest Vigilance Platoon (PVF) made up of 15 reservist gendarmes, a senior police officer and two motorcyclists from the mobile brigade, backed up by the
helicopter.

Spread across three zones, the PVF patrol the forest on motorbikes, all-terrain bicycles or in cars, where possible, on the hunt for fire-starters.

Set up just last week they started patrolling on Thursday.

The idea is that the PVF will free up firefighters who have been stretched thin battling blazes that since Tuesday have burned up 7,400 hectares of pine forests at the southern end of Gironde.

“After the major fires in July, we observed a rise in the number of arson cases,” said Martin Guespereau, deputy prefect for defence and security in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, which covers the Gironde.

“There are around twenty fires of unknown origin a day in Gironde.”

 According to France’s National Forests Office (ONF) nine out of 10 fires were started by people — and three out of 10 were started deliberately.

Forest off-limits

“The Forest Vigilance Platoon is a support division, whose aim is to prevent, detect and possible to arrest,” said Captain Christophe Roque, who was given the job of putting the team together.

Red-and-white signs at the edge of the Soulac-sur-Mer forest inform walkers that due to the “very severe” risk of fire, the forest is off-limits to the public until further notice — and has been since August 11.

A few cyclists were nevertheless out on the trails on Saturday, and were quickly intercepted by the gendarmes of the PVF.

“As soon as we come across someone, we get their identity,” said one member of the team, Bruno Kechtoff. “Because if we come across the same person several times, then that becomes suspicious.”

A message comes over the radio: two outbreaks of fire barely 500 metres (yards) apart, near Bazas, south of Bordeaux, the regional capital. A local has reported seeing someone on a moped wearing “yellow-trimmed” trousers”.

The LVF’s helicopter veers off towards Bazas, 130 kilometres away (80 miles) away.

Where they are sent next depends on where the next fires break out, says Constable Jeremy Hernandez. “We have been called here urgently but we can move if other areas are concerned.”

Then they are in their car and driving off, siren wailing, on the look-out for a quad reported in the woods.

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