France - Serial Killer

Families denied justice as French serial killer Michel Fourniret dies at 79

Michel Fourniret after his trial in 2008
Michel Fourniret after his trial in 2008 © Reuters

French serial killer Michel Fourniret dubbed the "Ogre of the Ardennes" who confessed to killing 11 people, died Monday aged 79, taking his final secrets to the grave and denying families of victims long-awaited justice.

Advertising

Fourniret, whose victims were mostly girls and young women, died at the La Pitie-Salpetrière hospital in Paris where he was admitted on 28 April from the nearby Fresnes prison where he was serving two life sentences, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said.

Fourniret was convicted in 2008 of killing seven women and girls aged between 12 and 22 after raping or attempting to rape them.

His murderous spree spanned from 1987 to 2001. Fourniret, who had admitted a fascination for virgins, was arrested in 2003 after a 13-year-old girl escaped from his van and called the police.

He confessed to 11 murders, including British student Joanna Parrish, who was killed in May 1990 while she was in France as part of her university course.

But he has been linked to other disappearances, most of them in the Ardennes region that straddles the French-Belgian border.

Watch the video
Michel Fourniret after his trial in 2008.
Michel Fourniret after his trial in 2008. © Reuters

His youngest victim was a nine-year-old girl who he raped and killed months before he was caught in Belgium trying to kidnap a 13-year-old.

But it was the sordid pact between Fourniret and his third wife, Monique Olivier, that sparked even greater revulsion.

She agreed to help him find virgins to rape if he killed her husband. She also then helped entrap some of his victims. 

Hidden gold

The couple married while Fourniret was still serving his second jail sentence for sexually assaulting young girls.

While in prison he shared a cell with a bank robber from one of France's most infamous gangs.

After his release, the robber's wife asked Fourniret to dig up stolen gold buried in a graveyard.

But the couple strangled the woman, and used the treaure to buy a chateau.

Fourniret later admitted he needed to go hunting for a virgin at least twice a year. And the chateau's extensive grounds became a burial ground for at least two of his victims.

Families denied justice

The death of Fourniret has dashed the hopes of families still awaiting justice for murders he may have committed.

His lawyers said they now expected the judiciary to end all investigations against him, adding that they had recently asked for his term to be suspended due to his ill health.

Fourniret's victims included nine-year-old Estelle Mouzin, who he raped and killed just months before he was caught in Belgium in 2003.

Fourniret finally admitted to the girl's murder in March 2020 but her body has yet to be found despite intensive searches, including over the last few weeks.

'Taking his secrets' to the grave

As well as the killing of Parrish, Fourniret had also been charged over the murders of Marie-Angele Domece, who vanished in 1988 and Lydie Loge, a 29-year-old who disappeared in 1993.

"Michel Fourniret is taking his secrets with him," said Richard Delgene, the lawyer for Monique Olivier.

"As we still have a lot of cases in progress, Monique Olivier will remain the only one in the defendants' box to be held accountable."

Olivier, now 72, is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 28 years, for her role in some of the abductions and killings.

The Parisien newspaper reported Monday morning that Fourniret was taken to hospital suffering from a heart condition and Alzheimer's, and that doctors had placed him in an artificial coma.

An investigation has been opened into his death, which is common practice in France when anyone dies in custody.

(with AFP)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning