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France: African ‘Child Refugee’ Arrested for Series of Violent, Knifepoint Rapes

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AP/Christophe Ena

A 16-year-old Ivorian who arrived in France as an unaccompanied minor has been arrested on suspicion of committing a series of violent rapes after his DNA was identified at the scene of an attack.

The suspect, who had been living in asylum lodgings since he came to France four years ago, was arrested as he exited from his high school in Marseille last week, and has refused to speak about the case while in pre-trial detention.

With DNA having implicated the same person in three serious rapes, the teenager’s identification and arrest had become a top priority for police “in view of his multiplying number of criminal acts”, a source close to the case said, adding: “We felt he was growing more bold.”

The first alleged assault took place in the early morning of April 24, when a 58-year-old woman was attacked from behind by a stranger while she was walking to work through the 2nd arrondissement of Marseille.

Taking care not to show his face, the assailant threatened the woman with a knife and then raped her, according to political and news magazine Le Point.

Police realised they were dealing with a serial rapist after two women came forward with reports of similar attacks, one of which took place on May 19 in Marseille’s 1st arrondissement and the other in the city’s 13th district, on August 2.

“These two other rapes were also committed at night, by a small man armed with a knife and who in each case attacked them from behind,” a police source said, reporting that the suspect “cut the clothes of his victims with his knife before raping the women”.

“At that point, all police departments in the city were made aware that there was a serial rapist on the loose in Marseille,” added the source.

It was not until September 10 that detectives from the Bouches-du-Rhone Directorate of Public Security were notified that a match had been found for DNA taken from the various crime scenes relating to the rapes.

The genetic profile reportedly corresponded to DNA taken from the 16-year-old in June, when he was investigated for committing burglary but subsequently released because of a lack of evidence.

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