French hostel murder trial 'may be spring'

The trial of the man suspected of raping and murdering British schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson could take place next spring, a French prosecutor said, after judicial officials ended their investigation.

The investigative arm of the Rennes court in Brittany where Caroline was killed, formally agreed to send Francisco Arce Montes before a court.

No date for the trial was set, but Rennes prosecutor Robert Baffert said it could take place in March or April and last about 10 days.

The trial will be the culmination of a long, investigation into the murder of 13-year-old Caroline, from Cornwall, who was raped and strangled on July 18, 1996, at a youth hostel in the Brittany village of Pleine-Fougeres.

Arce Montes, 53, was placed under investigation -- a step short of being charged -- for rape and murder after being extradited from the United States in November 2001.

Pressed on by the Dickinson family, French investigators interviewed 9,000 people and carried out 4,000 DNA tests mainly on men in the village where Caroline was killed.

It was a DNA test from semen found at the hostel that linked the Spanish suspect to the crime. He had been arrested in a break-in with sexual overtones at a youth hostel in Miami Beach, Florida.

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