French couple given life for rape and murders

Michel Fourniret, the “ogre of Ardennes”, was sentenced on Wednesday to life for the rape and murder of seven girls and young women, driven by his obsession with virginity. His wife, Monique Olivier, who helped him select and lure his victims, and who connived in some of the murders, was also given a life sentence.

The case, which has shocked France, revealed the macabre relationship between Fourniret (66) and Olivier (59), a nurse—a couple described by the prosecution as a “devil with two faces”.

Olivier met Fourniret in the 1980s when he was serving a prison sentence for sexual assault. He placed an advert for a pen pal and she replied.
Their letters showed that they formed a pact where in exchange for Fourniret murdering Olivier’s first husband, she would find him virgins to satisfy his obsession.

Fourniret never killed Olivier’s first husband, but she kept her part of the bargain and met him at the prison gates in 1987 when he was released. They started “virgin-hunting”, which was to last almost 20 years and involved the rape and murder of at least seven girls and women aged from 12 to 21.

The case has raised questions about the failings of the police and justice system. Until 2003, when a 13-year-old managed to gnaw through string binding her hands and escape from his van, all the murders were being treated as separate crimes.

Fourniret faces charges in three other cases, including the 1990 killing of 20-year-old Joanna Parrish, the Briton who worked as a teaching assistant in Auxerre.

During the two-month trial, Fourniret admitted in a confession to police that he had an obsession with the “symbol” of virginity. He said he had been traumatised to discover that his first wife was not a virgin like himself, and that “frustration, betrayal” had led to his acts.

In December 1987 in Burgundy, Olivier stopped her van to ask directions from Isabelle Laville, a 17-year-old walking home. Laville got into the van to help. Olivier then stopped for a hitchhiker, Fourniret. Laville was raped and murdered and her body thrown down a well. The murder set a pattern in which the couple would lure victims, on roadsides or railway stations, by asking for help, and by Olivier posing as a kind lady or a woman in need.

For their second murder, when Olivier was eight months pregnant, the couple convinced a young woman to help them find a doctor. Later, they posed with their son in a baby-seat in their car. One 13-year-old victim got into their van in a supermarket car park near Nantes after they asked for directions.

Jeanne-Marie Desramault, a 20-year-old who lived in a convent, met the couple on a train and enjoyed going out with them and their baby. She was murdered after Fourniret attempted to rape her. He said she looked like the incarnation of the Virgin Mary.

Fourniret, who was described during the trial as an extremely dangerous narcissistic pervert, refused to speak in court, and at the end delivered a rambling speech mostly written in Alexandrine couplets.

Olivier, on trial for one of the murders and complicity in four other crimes, was described as Fourniret’s “bloody muse”. She admitted watching his crimes through a mirror from another room, on her husband’s orders. Her defence lawyers said she was terrorised by a domineering husband. But the state prosecutor described her as a willing accomplice, who displayed a “deafening silence” to the screams of girls being raped. Olivier told the court the couple re-enacted the crimes later.

The victims were strangled, shot or stabbed with a screwdriver. Several were found buried in the grounds of Fourniret’s chateau in Sautou, near Sedan, allegedly bought with money stolen after the murder of the wife of a former cell mate. Fourniret confessed to, but later retracted, the murder, which is being investigated.—Â

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