A FOOTBALL coach confessed to raping scores of women he dragged off the street in a 30-year reign of terror and told a court: “I am a hunter”.
Dad-of-five Dino Scala, 61, is on trial accused of 56 terrifying sex attacks along the France-Belgium border where he prowled for victims at dawn.
Nicknamed the ‘Rapist of the Sambre’, after the local river near which he allegedly abused his victims, Scala has already admitted to the Douai court on Friday that “I committed sexual assaults and rapes. Yes.”
The accused confessed to around 40 rapes and assaults on girls and women aged 13-48 that he attributed to uncontrollable “compulsions”.
“I hung around… I watched where women would pass by,” he said.
“I like to be secretive and hide… I have the instincts of a hunter.”
“He has confessed freely since the beginning” and wants “to explain himself and answer the questions,” his lawyer Margaux Mathieu is quoted as saying by RFI.
The predator, who said he acted on his “instinct of a hunger, a predator”, always attacked women in the same manner: from behind, in the darkest hours of winter in deserted streets before he dragged them into nearby bushes or trees.
The alleged rapist’s hunting ground only extended to 30km.
The string of rapes and sexual assaults happened along the Sambre river, between Pont-sur-Sambre – Scala’s home – and Jeumont, his workplace.
The family man was a well-respected coach at a local football club and was described as well-integrated and sociable by locals in Pont-sur-Sambre.
One of the alleged victims, Betty, was attacked in 2002 when she was just a teen.
Then 17, Betty recalled: “On 5 December, I went to school, alone, on foot, in the dark, in the morning. I heard someone running behind me.”
“He grabbed me with both arms, from behind, so I did not see his face and he asked me to take off my scarf to blindfold myself and take me to the pasture where he raped me,” she told French TV TF1.
Because of his modus operandi, most of the alleged victims present during the first day of the trial said they were seeing his face for the first time.
The ex-janitor at an industrial site was able to operate for 30 years before he was arrested in February 2018 after a 17-year-old girl raised the alarm.
She was allegedly attacked by Scala in the Belgian border town of Erquelinnes, but managed to free herself from his grab.
The young woman alerted the authorities, and newly installed CCTV cameras were able to identify Scala’s small Peugeot car, which bore a French number plate.
Police traced the car to Scala’s house three weeks later.
Chillingly, a rope, gloves, and a knife were found in the predator’s car.
Another victim, Leila, said: “His arrest made me feel really good. I discovered that many others had fallen victim. I sympathised with them, but this outcome has eased my feeling of guilt.”
The woman added: “I thought I was the only one and that it was my fault. If I want to testify, it’s to warn that this can happen to anyone. This didn’t happen to me on a drunken night out. No, I was going to work.”
“Scala, I hate you with my whole body. End your life in prison!” the woman told DH Les Sports.
Now in his 60s, Scala is charged with 17 accounts of rape, 12 attempted rapes, and 27 sexual assaults or attempts.
While these charges are for 56 victims (including eight Belgian), French investigators said they believe other victims may exist. Some alleged victims are no longer alive, and others have refused to appear at the trial.
Lawyer Fanny Bruyerre, who represents nine of the victims, said the trial would finally be an opportunity for these women to be heard.
One of the alleged victims, whose name is Mélanie said she was assaulted in 1997 when she was just 14.
“He squeezed my neck and my head swung back – I had time to see his face,” she told France TV Info.
The young girl was profoundly affected by Scala’s alleged crime.
“I thought for a long time that he was there, downstairs on my doorstep, watching me, and then that he was going to finish his job because he told me he would kill me if I shouted,” Mélanie told Le Monde.
Mélanie, now 40, was able to describe her aggressor to police who created a facial composite of Scala, while DNA samples were also taken from the crime scenes.
Tragically, the composite image – which resembled Scala – was never circulated by French authorities.
In response to this, the head of judicial police in Lille, Romuald Muller, said the issue was that police were unable to trace Scala because the trail went quiet for months and sometimes years.
“The photo-fit is of use when it’s linked to an unusual characteristic, a distinctive sign like a particular walk or scar,” Muller told Le Figaro website.
“But on the other hand, you can recognise anyone on a photo-fit that looks like just about every man you know.”
Scala, who denies some of the charges, faces 20 years in prison.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.