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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Serial abuser
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 18, 1996
Date of arrest: March 11, 2001
Date of birth: March 14, 1951
Victim profile: Caroline Dickinson, 13 (British schoolgirl)
Method of murder: Suffocation
Location: Pleine Fougeres, Brittany, France
Status: Sentenced to 30 years in prison on June 14, 2004
photo gallery

Montes: Portrait of a serial abuser

BBC News

Tuesday, 15 June, 2004

Francisco Arce Montes is a psychologically troubled loner who for 25 years drifted around Europe, leaving a trail of convictions and arrests for abusing young girls.

His assault on Caroline Dickinson in Brittany in July 1996 conformed to a long-established pattern, in which he cased out youth hostels and similar establishments before sneaking in at night.

Evidence produced in the French court - which would not have been admitted in Britain - showed that he was jailed for five years in Germany in the mid-1980s for armed rape.

He is also known to have committed other assaults in France, Spain and Holland - as well as the attack in Miami in 2001 that led to his extradition and trial.

Born in Gijon, northern Spain, in March 1950, Montes was the younger child of a middle-class couple who ran a corner grocery.

In an interview with investigators which was read out at his trial, he said he had a miserable childhood.

"My mother hated me - unlike my father. Everyone accused me of things," he said.

Mental troubles began in his teens in the late 1960s, when he developed an obsession about hygiene, opening doors and switching on lights with a handkerchief and washing his food with mineral water.

Sex problems

At the age of 20, the first sexual problems appeared.

After exposing himself to a neighbour, he was sent to a psychiatrist who diagnosed depression and "progressive schizophrenia."

In the mid 1970s he left Spain for a rootless life across Europe, working occasionally as a waiter or driver but living mainly off money sent to him by his father.

The only acquaintance to testify at the trial - fellow Asturian Eduardo Riesgo Suarez - said that Arce Montes "knew all the youth hostels in Europe and spent his time chasing girls .

"For him the ideal age for a woman was 11 or 12; after 20 he found them old."

Riesgo Suarez also said Montes had a ferocious temper, telling him in an argument once that he thought nothing about killing a person.

His first known sexual aggression resulted ironically in a brief relationship and the birth of a son.

In 1981 Montes broke into the room of a French girl - Christine Le Menes - at a hostel in the Netherlands.

Now a teacher, Le Menes told the court that he touched her sexually against her wishes.

But later they met in Paris and had a consenting relationship, as a result of which she fell pregnant.

She left him shortly afterwards, complaining of physical violence.

In 1994 Montes was arrested after breaking into a hostel in central France where a group of Irish girls was staying; in 1996 he was caught at a hostel in Llanes, northern Spain; and in August 1997 he was arrested for an armed sex attack - again at Llanes.


After the last attack he spent some months in prison, and following his release returned home to Gijon.

His mother, in a testimony read out in court, said: "I would rather have gone out and lived on a door-step than be with him. The simple act of going into his bedroom disgusted me."

At around this time, Montes' father died, leaving him money that paid for his fare to South America - far enough, he hoped, from the murder investigation that was underway in France.

In July 1996 Montes had been driving from Spain to London, where he had a job as a waiter.

He wanted to see his son, now living with Le Menes in the Brittany town of Vitre.

But Le Menes refused him access, so he took whisky and anti-depressants - and began to check out the local hostels.

In court Montes appeared vague, depressed and lost in his own mind.

His answers, uttered in a dull monotone, were of no more than a few words.

But he appeared to show some genuine remorse. At one point he burst into tears at the account of his childhood problems.

Returning to court after a brief recess, he said: "I ask Caroline's parents to forgive me for these tears.

"They are totally out of place in this room, where it is not I who am the victim."


Three years to convict a killer

BBC News

Tuesday, 15 June, 2004

Francisco Arce Montes, who raped and murdered British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson, continually denied his involvement in a string of sex attacks.

But during a series of court cases and police interviews lasting three years, his shocking crimes were revealed.

Caroline, 13, was attacked and murdered by Spaniard Montes at a hostel in Brittany in July 1996.

But he evaded capture until US police arrested him over a similar attack on a woman in Florida in April 2001.

Montes denied raping and murdering Caroline, initially challenging the accuracy of DNA evidence which linked him to the crime.

By the time the case finally came to trial, after extradition and committal hearings, Montes admitted sexually assaulting the schoolgirl but claimed she was alive when he left her room.

His denials became a familiar theme.

The trial heard he had a previous conviction for rape in Germany and an attempted rape in his native Spain, both of which he denied in a police statement.

He also dismissed his arrest in Florida as a "misunderstanding".

Yet it was revealed he had previously preyed on children in hostels in Britain, Holland, France and Spain.

At a closed committal hearing in February last year, Montes apparently admitted Caroline's murder, only to change his story again before the main trial.

'Having a nightmare'

The week long case in Rennes heard evidence from Caroline's mother, Sue Dickinson, who was concerned about sending her daughter on the school trip to France.

She said: "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."

Statements were also read out from Caroline's school friends, some of whom shared the room where her murder took place.

Ann Jasper told how she heard noises and saw Caroline's legs shaking, but had thought she was "dreaming and having a nightmare".

Meanwhile, it was revealed Montes had attempted to attack another English schoolgirl at a different hostel on the same night Caroline died.

The evidence of a forensic policeman, Major Thierry Lezeau, cast doubt on Montes' claim that Caroline was alive when he left the hostel.

Mr Lezeau told the court: "It is very clear to me that the asphyxiation was significant and harsh. She stopped breathing very quickly."

Montes himself repeatedly refused to answer questions in court, but broke down when a statement from his mother was read out.

She claimed she was "repulsed" by her son.

Her comments prompted a rare statement from Montes who acknowledged the extent of his crime saying: "I understand the gravity of what I did.

"I know that the Dickinson family will never forgive me."

After such a long journey from his arrest in Florida, the combination of DNA and witness evidence convicted Montes in a trial lasting just a week.

It also brought to an end the Dickinson family's eight-year fight for justice.


Killer appeal bid due next summer

BBC News

Friday, 1 October, 2004

The man convicted of murdering 13-year-old Cornish girl Caroline Dickinson is to have his appeal heard next summer.

Francisco Arce Montes was jailed for 30 years in June with a recommendation he should serve at least 20 for killing Caroline in France in 1996.

The appeal of the 54-year-old Spanish waiter from Gijon will be heard next May or June in St Brieuc, Brittany.

Caroline's family said they were disappointed that Montes chose to appeal following his trial.

Caroline was attacked, raped and murdered by Montes in the early hours of 18 July 1996 as she slept on the floor of a hostel dormitory in Pleine Fougeres, Brittany.

She was among 41 youngsters from Launceston Community College on an activity holiday.

Montes evaded capture until US police arrested him over a similar attack on a woman in Florida in April 2001.

He was extradited to France and jailed after a trial in Rennes, Brittany. Caroline's father, John, 48, from Bodmin; her 46-year-old mother, Sue, from Launceston, and her 19-year-old sister Jenny sat through the trial.

The court, in a civil hearing, also ordered that Caroline's parents be paid £24,100 each, with an additional £17,217 paid to Jenny.

It is understood that the French Chief Prosecutor will visit Montes in prison early in the New Year to ensure that he still wishes the appeal to continue.

Montes' intention to appeal was revealed shortly after the trial. Members of Caroline's family said in a statement at the time they were angry and very upset to learn of the appeal and that their wish to begin the process of rebuilding our lives was "yet again, on hold".

Caroline's family said on Friday: "We are still very disappointed that Montes chose to appeal following his trial.

"However, we stand by what we said at the time that we will attend the appeal hearing whenever it is held."


I just want to explain, says Caroline Dickinson's killer

By John Lichfield in Paris -

Wednesday, 22 June 2005

The Spanish waiter convicted of the rape and murder of the British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson admitted yesterday for the first time that he had killed her.

The Spanish waiter convicted of the rape and murder of the British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson admitted yesterday for the first time that he had killed her.

At his trial last June, Francisco Arce Montes refused to admit that he had killed Caroline, 13, at a youth hostel in Pleine Fougères, Brittany, in 1996.

Yesterday, on the opening day of his appeal against the murder conviction, Montes, 55, accepted he was responsible for her death. He said he had no intention of killing Caroline. It was "an accident, a misfortune".

Montes, described to the appeal court in St Brieuc as a "sexual predator", said he had not demanded the second trial for his own sake. He was putting the Dickinson family through this ordeal so he could tell them what had really happened that night, he said.

At his first trial in Rennes last June, where he jailed for 30 years, Montes barely spoke. Yesterday he said he had no intention of killing the girl when he entered her dormitory at the youth hostel. He had put his hand over her mouth to stifle her cries while he raped her.

Jean-Luc Bockel, the chairman of the judges, said: "But the problem is she died." Montes replied: "Yes, that is true, I killed her but I had no intention of killing her. It was an accident, a misfortune. It was the result of the rape. I didn't go into her room to kill her. I didn't cover her mouth to kill her.

"First I would like to say I am appealing because I want to explain what happened on that day and the previous days. That wasn't the case in Rennes - I didn't give any explanation."

Montes said that, after taking tranquillisers and alcohol, he had gone to a youth hostel at St Lunaire where he had tried to rape another English girl. He fled when her companions woke and went to the hostel at Pleine Fougères, east of Saint Malo.

Caroline's father, John Dickinson, from Launceston in Cornwall, told the court he would be haunted all his life by the memory of seeing his daughter's body in the morgue. He said: "Life has stuck at the same page for nine years."

He was followed by his daughter Jenny Dickinson, now 20, who spoke in public for the first time about the loss of her "best friend". Ms Dickinson, who was 11 when her sister died, said it had taken six years before she could talk about her loss.

Montes appeared to wipe away a tear as she finished giving her evidence. By bringing the appeal, he risks having his sentence increased.But if his murder conviction is reduced to one of manslaughter, the sentence may be shortened.


Caroline killer's appeal rejected

BBC News

Tuesday, 28 June, 2005

A French court of appeal has upheld the 30-year sentence imposed on Francisco Arce Montes for the rape and murder of Caroline Dickinson.

Montes, 55, was sentenced last June for the attack on the Cornish schoolgirl at a Brittany youth hostel in July 1996.

The Spanish drifter admitted he suffocated the 13-year-old while raping her, but claimed at the retrial that he did not intend to murder her.

After a week of evidence, the St Brieuc jury took an hour to reach its verdict.

Caroline's father John spoke outside the court of the "pain of reliving the events" for his family and the friends of Caroline's who gave further evidence at the retrial of Montes.

He said: "We hope our search for justice for Caroline is at last complete and that she can be allowed to rest in peace.

"We did not want to be here, but Montes' exploitation of the French judicial system and our determination to seek justice for Caroline has required us again to suffer the pain of listening and thus reliving the events of 18 July 1996."

He called Montes an "evil man" who had no grounds for appeal.

"It seems that the offender's rights have overshadowed those of the victims," he said.

Montes technically has the right to appeal again on procedural irregularities, but the Dickinsons' lawyer Herve Rouzad Le Boeuf said a request to the French Supreme Court would fail.

He said: "After nine years this is the end of the matter and rightly so because it has been too long for the Dickinson family."

Before the verdict Montes, from Gijon, apologised in court once more to Caroline's parents, John and Sue, and her sister Jenny, 20, who have attended the hearing at the Court d'Assises in St Brieuc every day.

Standing in the dock, he turned to the family sitting just yards away and said: "What I did was awful. It was horrendous. I cannot be pardoned.

"I am sorry and I regret my actions but I didn't intend to kill your daughter."

Caroline, from Launceston, was killed during a school trip.

His defence team say Montes needs long-term treatment from a psychiatrist.

At the end of the week-long appeal hearing, the prosecutor recommended that Montes serve at least 25 years.

In last June's trial Montes, who has a long string of convictions for sexual offences, was given 30 years in jail for smothering the 13-year-old to death.

The judge said he should serve at least 20 years.

Montes insisted on appealing despite warnings from his legal team that it could lead to an even longer sentence.



18 July 1996: Unknown to her schoolteachers and fellow pupils, Caroline is raped and killed in a dormitory she shares with four other girls during a school trip from Launceston Community College, Cornwall.

19 July 1996: Caroline's body is discovered at 0800 in the dormitory in the village of Pleine Fougeres, Brittany.

About 50 French Gendarmes begin work on the case.

20 July 1996: French police arrest a vagrant, who is later released following a DNA test.

November 1997: The French magistrate, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, leading the investigation into the death, visits Britain for a three-day fact-finding mission.

December 1998: A homeless man arrested by French police in Marseilles is released after DNA tests prove negative.

2 February 1999: The UK Government urges France to investigate more thoroughly the deaths of British nationals after Caroline's father, John, calls for more action by French authorities in attempting to solve the crime.

10 December 1999: Caroline's mother Sue Dickinson loses her civil claim for damages against Cornwall County Council over her daughter's death, after a judge rules school staff supervising the trip were not at fault.

October 2000: Caroline's father makes his 18th trip to France to appeal for help from the public in the case.

11 March 2001: Spaniard Francisco Arce Montes is arrested in Florida after allegedly breaking into a woman's apartment.

March 2001: A US immigration officer visiting the UK links Caroline's murder to Montes after reading a newspaper article about the girl's murder.

5 April 2001: An inquest at Bodmin Magistrates Court into Caroline's death records a verdict of unlawful killing.

April 2001: French police issue a warrant for Montes's arrest after DNA tests allegedly show a match.

June 2001: A US judge rules Montes should be extradited to France.

19 November 2001: He is handed over to American federal marshals in Miami.

20 November 2001: The former lorry driver is extradited to France for questioning by investigators.

October 2003: Montes is transferred to a psychiatric unit at a prison outside Paris.

1 June 2004: He is taken to Rennes, France, to stand trial.

7 June 2004: The trial into Caroline's rape and murder opens in Rennes.

14 June 2004: The jury takes just over four hours to reach a guilty verdict. Montes is sentenced to 30 years in prison.



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