Thirty years of rape and sexual assault, 56 victims: Dino Scala appears from Friday before the assizes, in the north of France, for a course, partly assumed, of serial rapist, from 1988 to 2018.
The hunting ground attributed to the man nicknamed the "rapist of the Sambre" extends over a radius of less than 30 kilometers around this river crossing the Franco-Belgian border.
Among the victims, the youngest was 13 years old, the oldest 48. Many of them, who no longer believed in a legal outcome, were contacted again after his arrest.
“They hope to finally be able to put an end to what happened to them, to have a beginning of an explanation and to be heard, understood”, comments Me Caty Richard, lawyer for three of them.
Judged until July 1, Dino Scala, 61, appears for 17 rapes, 12 attempted rapes and 27 assaults or attempted sexual assaults.
This former worker and coach of local football clubs has recognized “the vast majority of the facts”, indicates his lawyer, Margaux Mathieu. He made “spontaneous confessions from the start of his police custody” and is still “in this same desire to explain, to answer questions”, she assures.
However, he disputes "about fifteen", "formally and constantly", while for certain criminal acts, "the oldest", he "finds difficulty in remembering".
Tied up, threatened
The sprawling judicial investigation began in November 1996 with the complaint of a 28-year-old woman who was raped along a highway in Maubeuge. A man came out of the shadows, she says, asked her if he "scared" her, before strangling her and dragging her into a copse. His sperm will be found in the grass.
Very quickly, other attacks follow in the same area. Teenage girls in particular are raped on the way to school. In barely two years, the judge counts about fifteen victims.
They are almost systematically attacked in the darkness of early winter mornings, generally on public roads. The modus operandi is similar: the man grabs them from behind, strangles them with his forearm or a link, drags them aside.
He threatens them, often with a knife, can tie their hands and feet or blindfold them. He sometimes asks them to "count", while he flees. Durably traumatized, many will say they have “seen death”.
For years, the police multiplied the investigations, the DNA comparisons and squared the zone. Without success, to the point that a first dismissal was pronounced in 2003. The case rebounded in 2006 after a series of attacks in Belgium. Other older complaints are then brought closer to the file. But the culprit remains untraceable.
Until the attack on a teenager in February 2018 in Erquelinnes (Belgium). A Peugeot 206 is filmed by CCTV, nearby. The driver, Dino Scala, will be arrested a few weeks later in Pont-sur-Sambre, a small French town.
Knife, cords, gloves are found during searches. His DNA is present at several crime scenes. In police custody, he confessed to about forty assaults, citing uncontrollable "urges".
Later, he will say that he "resents" women and always felt insufficiently recognized, "eternal second" in his professional and intimate life.
The arrest of this father of five children - from two marriages - had stunned his entourage who largely describes him as "nice", "helpful".
But two ex-sisters-in-law have denounced inappropriate behavior. Her first daughter described vague memories of touching, successively accusing her father and grandfather.
The investigation draws the profile of a "predator" with a life "organized around" these crimes. Before going to work, he “prowled” to find victims and spot their habits.
"I was shooting, (...) I observed where the women passed". "I like to be furtive, to hide myself", he will admit during the instruction, evoking a "nature of a hunter".
According to psychological experts, his enjoyment came more from the “domination of others” than from the sexual act.