French police have arrested a 57-year-old grandfather after a woman was raped in Belgium last week.

Dino Scala was arrested on Monday (26 February) after police matched his number plates to the crime scene. A DNA test showed he had sexually assaulted and raped several women. The man lives in Pont-sur-Sambre, right near the French-Belgian border.

According to The Guardian, the Scala has now confessed to raping and sexually assaulting "around 40" women since the 1990s. "He estimates the number of victims at around 40," prosecutor Jean-Philippe Vicentini said.

"The women were attacked from behind, very early in the morning," Vicentini said. "He wore gloves and masked his face, either completely or partially - with a hat, for example. (The man) acted on compulsions he was unable to control."

The Frenchman was also arrested in connection with a 1996 investigation behind the rape of around 19 women and girls. According to The Guardian, a police source said many of the victims were just 17 and one was as young as 13.

Under questioning, Scala admitted to more than twice that many attacks saying he urges that he could not control.

The mayor of the small French town of Pont-sur-Sambre, Michael Detrait, said everybody in the 2,500-strong community was in shock and Scala, who was beyond suspicion until his arrest, was known locally for his kindness: "I haven't slept all night. We feel betrayed. He really led a double life. We went to eat chips at his place after football matches, and he even came to fix the TV aerial at my house," The Times reported.

Married with three adult children, he had recently become a grandfather, neighbours said. Scala was well-respected and looked after his frail father-in-law, they said.

Police said that Scala's wife and children were in shock after his confession.

Scala was reportedly working as a janitor and had been the head of the local football club. Police have previously referred to him as "the rapist of the Sambre". Around 100 people have been questioned in an attempt to identify the man. He was allegedly using the same method consistently to hunt down and rape women and girls. It is thought to be one of the France's most prolific serial rapists in recent decades.