On March 25th 2005, Romano van der Dussen was found guilty of committing three violent sexual assaults in 2003 in Fuengirola, Malaga.
According to Spanish daily El Pais, his DNA and fingerprints did not match any found at the crime scenes.
The assaults had taken place in the dark, between 4am and 6am, but two of the women who were attacked picked out Van der Dussen “without any doubt” from ID parades. They disagreed about whether their attacker had had long or short hair but it was enough to convict the then 30-year old Dutchman of causing bodily harm, robbery with violence, attempted rape and three sexual aggressions.
A third witness also identified Van der Dussen, who had no criminal record but who had been arrested in the past for fighting with his girlfriend. The Dutchman was sentenced to 15 and a half years in prison in addition to the 19 months in custody he served between being arrested and tried.
But when Spanish police entered DNA recovered from the crimes into the international Veritas database in 2007, it showed a match with a British man, Mark Phillip Dixie.
Dixie was already in custody in the UK and would subsequently be sentenced to life imprisonment for raping and killing a woman in London in 2005. He was also being investigated by Australia as a possible murderer and serial rapist.
Investigators contacted Interpol who revealed that Dixie had lived in Malaga between 2002 and 2003 – the same time that the crimes had been committed.
A report was submitted on March 23rd 2007 but the wheels of justice have turned very slowly since then. The case has been passed from court to court – including Spain's Supreme Court – but has been repeatedly held up on technicalities.
His lawyer, Silverio García Serra, said “It is a disgrace that Romano Van der Dussen is still imprisoned and that judicial diligence has still not been carried out.”
“They cannot act with such neglect in the case of a possibly erroneous imprisonment. An innocent man in prison should be a priority for the system, but no-one has cared,” he added.
A magistrate in Fuengirola is now pursuing the case and has asked Interpol for Dixie's fingerprints and British police for a DNA sample.