A family man with kids is suspected of being a brutal serial rapist who would beat his victims before raping them and then apologise as he rode off on his scooter.
Nicknamed the “rapist of the Senart forest” the man who always kept his motorcycle helmet on during the sex attacks has gone on trial accused of raping and sexually assaulting 35 women.
But, he was finally snared and put on trial when a new way of carrying out DNA testing allowed detectives to search not just the suspects, but also relatives of suspects, and they found that there was a match with the accused man’s brother.
The 3,000-hectare Forest of Senart is located in the French department of Essonne, just outside Paris, not far from the Paris-Orly airport.
It is here that the defendant, named only as Aissa Z., is alleged to have raped, attempted to rape, or sexually assaulted over 30 women between 1995 and 2000.
After years of investigations, his trial finally began on Tuesday (15th September) after numerous setbacks that even saw the investigation closed at one point in 2005 due to a lack of evidence.
But new DNA techniques finally led to an arrest in 2015 when the suspect, a family man with children, was identified as the prime suspect.
According to investigators, he at first allegedly admitted to having carried out the rapes before recanting his confession.
The rapist would always operate the same way. He would ride around the large paths in the forest on a scooter and identify a potential victim before stopping and pretending that the vehicle had broken down.
Once the victim came nearer he would pounce on her, often kicking her in the face. He would then rape his victim before fleeing, sometimes apologising as he fled.
The investigation was impeded by two major factors. The first is that the victims could not identify their attacker because he never removed his motorcycle helmet. The second is that scooters back then did not require licence plates by law.
One anonymous victim told French media channel BFMTV that she had fought with her attacker for 10 minutes before being finally overwhelmed. She asked him to at least use a condom, which he did. She says that despite the attack happening some 20 years ago, it changed her life and that she still trembles when she talks about it.
In 2014, after having been closed in 2005, the case was reopened and genetic material found on victims was analysed again using a new technique that can also identify relatives of suspects thanks to hereditary genes.
This new information leads to a man who is on the FNAEG (Fichier National Automatise des Empreintes Genetiques, the French national DNA database, used by police and the gendarmerie).
This man was a sibling of the accused who lived near the forest at the time of the rapes, and who was an often unemployed barman who owned numerous scooters.
A DNA test carried out on the suspect lead investigators to the conclusion that they have their man.
The defendant denies the charges. The trial is ongoing.
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