Sebastien Dutheil, centre, a 33-year-old man charged with the raping of several children and teenagers is escorted by policement upon his arrival at Privas' courthouse prior to the opening hearing of his trial. Picture: PHILIPPE DESMAZES

Privas, France - A man who carried out a series of sexual assaults on girls at holiday campsites in the Ardeche region of central France went on trial on Wednesday.

Sebastien Dutheil, 33, is charged with two counts of rape and nine of attempted or actual sexual assaults on victims aged between six and 17.

His victims included three foreigners: a Belgian, a Dutch girl and a German.

The attacks, carried out between June and August 2012, involved a masked Dutheil sneaking into tents under cover of darkness and restraining the girls while he assaulted them. The victims' parents were usually sleeping in nearby tents or caravans.

Dutheil, who worked as a tiler, was arrested after police matched DNA they found on the underwear of an 11-year-old victim with his, which they had on file because of a previous conviction for sexual assault.

Police said he had admitted to a series of attacks which brought terror to an area popular with nature lovers at the height of the holiday season.

Dutheil also confessed to a number of similar assaults he claimed to have carried out in 2010 and 2011.

The trial, which is taking place behind closed doors at the request of one of the victims, is expected to conclude on Friday.

Dutheil faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. - AFP