France charges Syrian refugee with 24-year-old woman's rape and murder

MONT-DE-MARSAN, France (AFP) - A Syrian refugee was on Saturday (July 13) charged with the rape and murder of a 24-year-old woman, a French public prosecutor said.

The Syrian man, 32, who denies the offence, was picked up on Thursday in the southwestern town of Moit-de-Marsan, four days after the woman's body was discovered.

Known to police for violent behaviour, he was charged after his DNA, already held on a national register, was discovered on the victim, prosecutor Olivier Janson said.

Investigators found her mobile telephone and her sim card during a search of his home.

Three other men - an Algerian, a Moroccan and a Tunisian - were freed after initially being detained in connection with the case.

They will be deported, however, as they were in France illegally, the prosecutor said.

A passer-by discovered the body of Johanna Blanes beneath a railway line in her home town of Saint-Pierre-du-Mont, around 100km south of Bordeaux and a short drive from Mont-de-Marsan.

Janson said a post-mortem had determined she was strangled after being raped.

The other three men were briefly held before investigators concluded there was no evidence more than one person was responsible for the assault.

They are now in detention with a view to their deportation, Janson said.