French surgeon may have molested nearly 200 children

Police have also uncovered images of child pornography and sex toys from his home

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It might be France's biggest-ever paedophilia case as a retired surgeon is charged with molesting nearly 200 children.

According to a prosecutor, Joel Le Scouarnec, 68, is set to go on trial in March for the rape of a neighbour's daughter, sexual assault and indecent exposure.

Le Scouarnec is also accused of raping a young relative, sexually assaulting another young relative and abusing a young patient. He is facing charges that span over three decades whilst he had been practising in hospitals across central and western France.

The first accusation dates to early 2017, when the parents of a six-year-old girl living in his neighbourhood in the southwestern town of Jonzac accused him of raping her.

184 people, 181 of whom were minor when Le Scouarnec assaulted them filed formal complaints against him. Investigators discovered secret diaries in which Le Scouarnec describes sex scenes involving scores of other children. Le Scouarnec's lawyers have argued that the diary entries were merely fantasies.

The police have been tracking down the children and obtaining testimonies from those who were mentioned in the diary entries. The police have also uncovered images of child pornography and sex toys from Le Scouarnec's home.

"250 potential victims of acts of paedophilia that do not fall under the statute of limitations were identified during the (second) investigation," the public prosecutor in the city of La Rochelle, Laurent Zuchowicz said on Monday.

Of those, police were able to question 209, "several of whom had very precise memories" of the alleged abuse, he added.

"They remember perfectly well what they endured but never talked about it because they were afraid," Francesca Satta, a lawyer for some of the former surgeon's alleged victims, said.

In 2005, Le Scouarnec was given a four-month suspension after being found in possession of child pornography.

The retired surgeon will be tried in the southwestern town of Saintes from March 13 to 17. If convicted on the first set of charges itself, he could face up to 20 years imprisonment.