France grandfather admits 40 rapes and sex assaults

A police car parked in parked in Toulouse on 5 December 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption French police arrested the suspect after identifying his vehicle through CCTV video (file picture)

A French grandfather has admitted raping and sexually assaulting around 40 women in France and Belgium since the 1980s, officials say.

The married 57-year-old, who has not been officially named, was arrested after police linked his car to the rape of a young woman last week in Belgium.

His DNA matched samples found after 19 other attacks.

The case has shocked the northern town of Pont-sur-Sambre, where the mayor described him as a "well-liked" man.

The father-of-three worked as a janitor and was previously the head of the local football club, French media reported, identifying him as Dino Scala.

The suspect - nicknamed "the rapist of Sambre" after the local river - is thought to be one of the country's most prolific serial rapists in recent decades.

He usually attacked the women from behind, early in the morning, wore gloves and covered his face, prosecutor Jean-Philippe Vicentini said.

The man told police he had "acted on urges he was unable to control", Mr Vicentini added.

The investigation into a string of attacks going back to 1988 was opened in 1996.

One of the victims was 13 years old and several others were 17, a police source told AFP news agency.

During their search, police collected DNA samples from some 100 people.

Security cameras in Belgium caught the suspect's vehicle after a young woman was raped in the border town of Erquelinnes on 5 February.

On Monday French police arrested him in Pont-sur-Sambre.

"We're completely shocked," said Mayor Michel Detrait. "It doesn't fit with his personality. He was well-liked, ready to help."

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