A 68-year-old man has been arrested in France on suspicion of killing 18 people, most of them gay, a prosecutor said today.

Nicolas Panard is suspected of killing 11 people in the eastern Alsace region, four in a neighbouring region and three in the Paris area, the public prosecutor in the eastern town of Montbeliard said.

The murders took place between 1980 and 2002.

Panard, who is gay, was arrested in the eastern city of Mulhouse.

His suspected accomplice Slim Fezzani, 43, who is serving a 20-year sentence prison for murder, has also been brought in for questioning, public prosecutor Jean-Martin Jaegle said.

“For the moment there has been no admission of guilt and there is no proof that they are guilty,” Jaegle said.

The victims all suffered a heavy blow to the head and multiple stab wounds, and were often partially dressed.