Yoan Gomis and his brother Elvin, who are 26, often exchanged clothes, phones and cars and even shared a Facebook account, stumping police who were investigating a string of attacks in building corridors on women aged between 22 and 76.
Police were able to link the attacks through DNA, but were not able to determine which of the men – who are virtually identical genetically - were guilty of the crimes. The victims were not able to tell the men apart in photographs.
Both were held in custody for 10 months until Yoan gave a partial confession, admitting to attacking the women but not to sexual assault.
Authorities say Elvin had a more solid alibi and that some victims recognised Yoan’s lisp, which is due to a hearing impairment.
While it is possible to determine differences in the accused’s genetic code, such testing would be very costly and it was not clear if such evidence would be presented during the trial in an Aix-en-Provence court.
The case is not Marseille’s first involving identical twins. Part of the case against identical twins Marc and Dominique Pantalacci, accused of drugs and weapons trafficking, hinges on DNA lifted from boxes allegedly containing the contraband.