Trial of Dino Scala: How was the accused found, after 20 years of tracking down the “rapist of the Sambre”?
How could the crimes of the “rapist of the Sambre” go unpunished for thirty years? Two investigators came to testify, this Tuesday, before the Assize Court of the North, in Douai, in the trial of Dino Scala. This 61-year-old former maintenance technician is on trial there, until July 1, for rape and sexual assault on 56 complainants, between 1988 and 2018, the date of his arrest.
Because before being able to say, opposite, “This is the end”, to Dino Scala, the day of the arrest, a commander of the judicial police (PJ) of Lille experienced twenty years of failures. In front of the judge and the jurors, he recounts the vagaries and difficulties of the investigation from the opening of a judicial inquiry in 1996. the descriptions of the suspect”, ironically the police officer.
The only clues he has are that the attacker is wearing a cap, is visibly moving on board an R21 and is still operating in the same way in the Val de Sambre, near Maubeuge, in the North. “Very early on, we oriented the research around factory or site exits because many victims reported a smell of grease or grease during their testimony,” he explains.
Similarly, the rapist also acts almost systematically in the early morning, in autumn or winter. “For us, it was someone who hired or poached early,” he continues. All these tracks were good, and yet… A first robot portrait was even established in 1997, but the research remained fruitless.
In 2008, when the rapist has just cracked down again, a new cell of the PJ, devoted to somewhat forgotten cases, takes over the investigation by re-examining the victims. “We were looking for a common point in all these attacks, comments the policeman. We even imagined that it could be an EDF agent because the attacks often took place next to an EDF block. »
A DNA that does not “match”
Checks against a suspect vehicle, a light-coloured R21, yielded nothing. A unique DNA is certainly identified but it does not “match”. And for good reason, Dino Scala has no criminal record. Justice then tries research in parenthood around this genotype. Painstaking work that targets around fifty suspects. The checks clear everyone. And the attacks continue.
Until an administrative police officer warned of a new attack on February 5, 2018 in Erquelinnes, on the Franco-Belgian border. “Thanks to her, we immediately sent an investigator on the spot,” said the police officer. And, this time, luck is on the side of the police. Images from a CCTV camera, installed near the scene of the attack, make it possible to identify the slightly dented 206 of a suspect and a piece of registration.
The vehicle was found almost by chance, on February 21, in the parking lot of the Jeumont Electrique factory by the PJ investigator. “The driver corresponds to the robot portrait of the rapist”, recalls the latter. Therefore, a spinning begins to set up. The registration of the vehicle does not correspond to the owner, because the change of gray card had not been carried out.
A “dark figure” of victims?
The police are waiting for Dino Scala to drive to work to arrest him. It’s done on a country road, February 26, at 6:25 am. “When he opened the door, I had the feeling that we hadn’t made a mistake,” reports the PJ officer. I remember his look. He understood. In the afternoon, the DNA confirms the genetic identity. “During the search at his home, we find the complete panoply: gloves, cord, cap, condoms…”
The suspect quickly admits about forty sexual assaults. Nearly 80 unresolved cases are scrutinized. Justice will retain 56 complaints or cases. But for the police, there is certainly a “dark figure” of victims because “not all of them filed a complaint”.
Thirty years of crimes and twenty years of hunting had just ended. The dissemination of complaint files in the 1990s, combined with their poor consideration in certain police stations, partly explains the slowness of this investigation. “We have to get back to the conditions of the time, there are fewer relations between the services. »
But a final question arises. “Why not have distributed, in France, the robot portrait that existed, while the Belgian police did it in 2011? asks the lawyer for one of the complainants, Me Emmanuel Riglaire. “He was not recognizable enough, replies the investigator and that did not allow him to be arrested in Belgium either”. What if that had reinforced the accused’s feeling of impunity?