French court sentences serial rapist to 20 years

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Douai (France) (AFP) – A French court on Friday sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for dozens of rapes and sexual assaults he committed over a 30-year period along the border with Belgium.

Nicknamed the “Rapist of the Sambre” because of the river that crosses the region where he operated, Dino Scala, 61, will serve at least two-thirds of his sentence behind bars.

Former concierge and father considered a pillar of the community, his arrest in 2018 and then his trial for 17 rapes, 12 attempted rapes and 27 assaults shocked France.

“I want to apologize to my victims,” ​​Scala said Friday before the judges retired to consider their verdict, his voice betraying little emotion.

Prosecutors called the accused “extremely dangerous”, saying he embodied “the unthinkable banality of evil”.

And a psychologist expert consulted by the court spoke of a “gulf between the social side and the hidden side” of the accused.

“The law is not up to the task” of the gravity of Scala’s crimes, said Fanny Bruyerre, who represented nine of the victims.

The maximum sentence of “20 years is so little” for 56 “destroyed lives”, she added before the verdict.

“Compulsion”

Scala confessed to about 40 of the 56 rapes and assaults he was accused of, attributing them to uncontrollable “compulsions”.

Investigators suspect that beyond the crimes tried in court, there were other victims who did not come forward to police.

About half of the victims stayed away from the trial, with some complaining of being mistreated when they tried to file a criminal complaint or even being told they were lying.

“I have been reliving this rape for 22 years, it is torture,” a woman told the court.

Expert testimony has suggested that Scala’s frustration with what he saw as a lack of recognition in his personal, professional and sporting life – he also coached a local football team – may have contributed to a desire to dominate and inflict terror on others.

But the defendant himself said it would be “impossible” for him to reoffend if released from prison.

“I caused too much unhappiness around me. When I attacked these people, I didn’t realize how serious the things I was doing were,” he told the court.

‘Hunter’

Between 1988 and 2018, Scala’s youngest victim was 13, the oldest 48, and most were attacked in the same way – surprised in deserted streets on early winter mornings, strangled and dragged through bushes. or nearby trees.

Police began their search in November 1996 when a 28-year-old woman said she had been raped along a motorway near Maubeuge. Investigators found the attacker’s DNA at the scene but found no matches in police databases.

More attacks followed, with more than 15 alleged victims over two years, but reports of similar cases suddenly ceased.

Despite increased patrols, the attacker was never found and the case was closed in 2003.

Three years later, a new series of assaults in Belgium reignited the investigation and police began to suspect that other earlier cases in the region could be linked to the same man.

It wasn’t until February 2018, when a teenager was assaulted in Erquelinnes, Belgium, that CCTV cameras revealed a Peugeot car at the scene, and Scala was arrested weeks later.

A knife, gloves and cords that could be used as tourniquets were found during the searches, and DNA matches were made at several crime scenes.

After his arrest, he told investigators how he carried out his attacks.

“I hung around…I watched where the women were going,” he said. “I have the nature of a hunter.”

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