French serial killer defends his wife
In his final address before a verdict is handed down Wednesday, Fourniret describes his wife as a poor woman incapable of harming anyone.28 May 2008
CHARLEVILLE-MEZIERES - A French court was set to hand down a verdict Wednesday in the trial of serial killer Michel Fourniret and his wife, accused of helping lure victims to satisfy her husband's obsession with virgins.
Prosecutors are demanding life sentences for Fourniret and Monique Olivier, whom they described as "cruel and inhuman criminals" in one of France's most gruesome cases in recent years.
Dubbed the "Ogre of the Ardennes", Fourniret, a 66-year-old machine operator, has admitted to the kidnap, rape and murder of seven young girls and women between 1987 and 2001.
His wife, a 59-year-old nurse, is accused of helping him trap his victims, who were aged between 12 and 22. They were shot, strangled or stabbed to death.
In a final address to the court on Tuesday, Fourniret delivered a 15-minute diatribe - part of which was written in verse - against the prosecution and described his wife as "a poor woman incapable of harming anyone".
Olivier, charged in the murder of one of the young women and complicity in three others, expressed remorse at the end of the trial in the northeast town of Charleville-Mezieres.
"I regret everything that I have done. That is all," she said.
The nine-member jury withdrew to a local police station to consider their verdict and were expected to return with a decision on Wednesday afternoon.
During the two-month trial, the jury heard Fourniret admit that he had a sexual obsession with virgins and describe being in an "altered state" when killing his victims.
"I remain an extremely dangerous individual," the bespectacled grey-haired Fourniret told the court.
Lawyers for Olivier sought to portray their client as the terrorised wife of a domineering husband.
But state prosecutor Xavier Lenoir described her as a willing accomplice, saying she displayed a "deafening silence" to the screams of girls being raped by her husband and acted as a "catalyst" for their perverse crimes.
Olivier testified that she and Fourniret would reproduce scenes from their crimes during sexual intercourse.
Fourniret met Olivier in the 1980s while he was serving time in jail on sexual assault charges. She responded to an ad he had placed for a pen pal.
Letters seized by investigators showed that Fourniret had made a pact with Olivier that in exchange for the murder of her first husband - who was never killed - she would find him virgins to satisfy his obsession.
Olivier denied in court that such a pact ever existed.
Among the most disturbing accounts, the court heard a coroner provide evidence suggesting Fourniret sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl after stabbing her to death.
The trial also laid bare some of the mistakes by police that allowed Fourniret to elude arrest for years, both in France and across the border in Belgium where he operated.
On the final day of the trial, Fourniret's lawyer Pierre Blocquaux appealed to the jury to show compassion toward his client.
"He is part of our humanity, alas, regardless of the horrible nature of these acts," said Blocquaux.
The prosecution is seeking a maximum sentence of life in prison for Fourniret, with no possibility of parole.
Lawyers for Olivier urged the jury to draw a distinction between her and Fourniret, arguing that she had no criminal record prior to meeting him.
The prosecution is seeking life imprisonment for Olivier, with no possibility of parole for 30 years.
The trial also provided an opportunity for the families of the victims to express their grief.
"I feel so much hate that if life permits, I will go and spit on your grave," said the father of Celine Saison, 18, who was raped and strangled to death in 2000.
Fourniret faces charges in three other cases including the 1990 murder of Joanna Parrish, a 20-year-old British woman who worked as a teaching assistant in the central French city of Auxerre.
[AFP / Expatica]