French court jails 'Tinder rapist' photographer for 18 years

Prosecutors say the man lured his victims on dating apps (Martin BUREAU)
Prosecutors say the man lured his victims on dating apps (Martin BUREAU)

A French court on Friday jailed a man for 18 years for raping and sexually assaulting several women he had lured on dating apps and social media to take their picture.

Salim Berrada, a 38-year-old former photographer from Morocco, was found guilty of 12 rapes and three sexual assaults and will be obliged to leave France in the "Tinder rapist" case, named after the popular dating app.

He was charged with raping or sexually assaulting 17 women, but he was acquitted of rape for two alleged victims because of a lack of evidence and the benefit of the doubt.

Berrada remained emotionless as the verdict was read out while his victims were heard breathing sighs of relief as the presiding judge read out their names one by one.

When the hearing was declared over, several of the women stood up to applaud, shout "thank you" and hug each other after the two-week trial.

- 'Extremely dangerous' -

Prosecutors had requested 19 years' jail for Berrada, saying he invited women he met online in 2015 and 2016 to modelling photo shoots and assaulted them during the encounters, most after spiking their drink.

The defendant had denied the charges, saying the sexual relations were all consensual.

The prosecutor on Thursday argued that Berrada was "addicted to sex and preying" on women, had a "very well-established, sly and compulsive modus operandi" and was "extremely dangerous".

The investigation found that he followed a list of pick-up lines and compliments he had in an Excel spreadsheet, reaching out to potential victims "en masse".

When women arrived for a modelling session, Berrada offered them a drink, prosecutors said.

Once they accepted, the women said they felt an abnormal and rapid inebriation and sudden weakness, which investigators said pointed to the drinks being laced with drugs.

The women then described a sudden change in Berrada's attitude, and said he forced himself on them despite their objections.

The prosecutor cited one accuser as saying she "cried from beginning to end".

The defendant told the trial some of his accusers had convinced themselves that he was a rapist, some had "lied", and others might have led him to think they were consenting "because they said 'yes' to put on a brave face".

His lawyers say toxicology reports did not prove he spiked any drinks, and some of the women he met later sent him messages saying they looked forward to seeing him again.

The prosecutor said Berrada was especially dangerous because he was a repeat offender.

Berrada was first arrested in 2016 and spent two and a half years in prison awaiting trial before being released under judicial supervision and banned from working as a photographer.

He was jailed again in July following a fresh wave of legal complaints, and again charged with rape and sexual assault.

The investigation into the new allegations is ongoing.

mdh/imm/js