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Sally Anne Bowman 'would still be alive if Spanish police had done their job'

A man who served 12 years in a Spanish prison for a series of violent sexual assaults which were committed by the killer of Croydon model Sally Anne Bowman has given his first television interview to ITV News London.

Sally Anne Bowman

Romano van der Dussen had his conviction quashed by the Spanish Supreme Court.

He was jailed in 2003 even though his DNA did not match the sample found on one of the victims and says if the Spanish police had done their job properly back then Sally Anne who was murdered in September 2005 would still be alive.

Romano van der Dussen

Romano Van Der Dussen was baffled when he was arrested and questioned about the attempted rapes of three women in separate attacks in Fuengirola in Malaga on August 10th 2003.

Apparently one of the victims had picked his photograph out as her attacker. His picture was on police file because he had been arrested, but never charged, after a row in the street with a girlfriend.

Romano van der Dussen

DNA found on one of the victims was not his and a fingerprint discovered at the scene of one of the attacks did not belong to him either.

He knew he was innocent and even when he was charged was convinced he would be acquitted by the courts. He had an alibi.

He'd given police the names of two British witnesses who said they were with him 14 miles away in Torremolinos, but police never interviewed them.

Romano, who's originally from Leiden in Holland found himself at the centre of a frightening nightmare.

The trial was in Spanish, a language he didn't speak at the time. The hearing was quick and seemed to point to him being guilty before all the evidence had been heard.

To his horror, he was convicted and was jailed for 15 years for attempted rape, wounding, robbery and sexual assault. It would be more than a decade before the terrible dream would come to an end.

In February this year, after serving 12 years of his sentence Romano's conviction was quashed.

It came eight months after 44-year-old Mark Dixie who is serving life for the savage murder of Sally Anne Bowman in south London in 2005, admitted raping a Spanish woman while high on drink and drugs in Fuengirola in August 2003.

Mark Dixie

The Met discovered Dixie had been living in Fuengirola between 2002 and October 2003 and went to see him in prison in County Durham.

During the police interview Dixie admitted raping one of the women Romano was accused of attacking, but claimed he could not remember if he carried out the other two assaults because he was so high on drugs at the time.

But prosecutors at Romano's trial had argued the same man must have committed all three rapes, which took place within two hours of each other.

A saliva sample from Dixie was matched to DNA found on the first victim.

It was after detectives sent his DNA profile to Spanish police who ran it through their database that the match was made to the attack in Fuengirola.

The Supreme Court was told there was a one in 54 million chance that the DNA found on the victim did not belong to Dixie.

Romano Van Der Dussen spent 12 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit and says if the Spanish Police had done their job properly in 2003 when he was arrested, Sally Anne would not have been murdered.

Romano Van Der Dussen

The horrendous thing is, if Spanish police had done their job properly they might have arrested Dixie in 2003 and Sally Anne would still be alive.

I'll never get the last 12 years of my life back, but at least my name is cleared and I can finally start to rebuild my life again

– Romano Van Der Dussen

The 18-year-old model was ambushed as she got out of her boyfriends car in Croydon in the early hours of September the 25th 2005. She was robbed, raped and repeatedly stabbed.

Dixie, who was working as a pub chef, was only caught after being arrested over a fight a year later. His DNA was found to match samples taken from the murder scene.

Romano's mother died before his name was cleared. She could not stand the idea of her own son being a rapist, and never came to see him in Spain because she had been raped herself.

My stepsister is the result of that sexual attack, and my mother always saw her rapist's face in her own daughter's. I have experienced that kind of trauma up close and personal.

She did ask the prison authorities if she could say goodbye to me when she realised she was dying of cancer, but it was not possible. I was never able to tell her that I loved her very much and that I had never assaulted any girls. She died before I was able to prove my innocence.

– Romano Van Der Dussen
Mark Dixie being interviewed by the police Credit: Met Police

In July this year Mark Dixie admitted to another rape. This offence was committed when he was just 16. It happened in 1987.

He ambushed a woman in an isolated car park, raped her, tied her to her car and then set fire to it. The woman managed to escape and raise the alarm. He also admitted indecently assaulting another woman in 2002.

Dixie will be sentenced for these attacks at the Old Bailey on Friday. He is already serving 34 years for the rape and murder of Sally Anne Bowman.