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French man on trial after admitting student’s killing

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A convicted rapist will stand trial from Monday in France for the murder of a student he claims to have killed accidentally, but whom investigators believe was lured to her death.

Sophie Le Tan vanished on her 20th birthday after failing to return from what was supposed to be a visit to a rental apartment outside the eastern city of Strasbourg on September 8, 2018. She was described by those close to her as a serious and likeable young woman.

Her dismembered body was found by hikers in a forest in October 2019.

Jean-Marc Reiser, now 61, was arrested a week after she disappeared and was tracked down by police through phone records. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

After speaking to other students who responded to the same property advert only to be stood up, investigators believe Reiser used it to lure young women, observing the agreed meeting spot to see if they came alone.

A search of his apartment uncovered large bloodstains that had been carefully cleaned up, as well as Le Tan’s DNA on a saw in the cellar, according to court documents.

For two years, Reiser denied any involvement in Le Tan’s death, before claiming in January 2021 that she died in a fall after he struck her.

After her remains were discovered, court documents said it was no longer possible to determine her cause of death or whether she suffered sexual violence.

Reiser was previously convicted of rape in 2003 and has served several prison sentences. In 2001, he was acquitted for lack of evidence in connection with another disappearance dating back to 1987.

Reiser was raised in eastern France by an alcoholic father and has held a variety of jobs.

“He had fantasies of omnipotence,” says lawyer Jean-Pierre Degeneve, who defended the accused in previous cases.

Reiser was “extremely authoritarian” but also capable of being “very courteous”, Degeneve added, calling him a “strange personality”.

In May, the suspect was convicted of witness tampering relating to a former girlfriend, who described his rages and physical violence while they were together.

After the court hears from his former partners and others close to him, Reiser will himself be cross-examined on Friday.