French serial killer and wife could still face more charges

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Despite being sentenced to the heaviest sentence under France’s criminal law, the couple may still be charged in connection with other unsolved murders.

29 May 2008

CHARLEVILLE-MEZIERES - French Serial killer Michel Fourniret and his wife began life sentences Thursday after being convicted for the murder of seven girls and young women between 1987 and 2001.

And the couple could be still charged in connection with other unsolved murders.

In one of France's most gruesome cases in recent years, the nine-member jury handed down the heaviest sentence under the country's criminal law, life imprisonment without possibility of parole, to 66-year-old Fourniret.

His wife Monique Olivier, 59, described by prosecutors as Fourniret's "bloody muse," was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 28 years without parole for helping lure his victims. The prosecution had asked for 30 years without parole.

Dubbed the "Ogre of the Ardennes," Fourniret showed no emotion as he stood, eyes closed, before the presiding judge who read out the verdict at the end of the two-month trial in the northeast town of Charleville-Mezieres.

Dressed in a pink sweater with white blouse, Olivier listened quietly to the judgement as she stood alongside Fourniret in the courtroom's glass enclosure for defendants.

During the trial, the grey-haired Fourniret admitted to the kidnap, rape and murder of seven girls and young women between 1987 and 2001, at times providing horrific details of the carnage.

Prosecutors had argued that Olivier, a former nurse, helped him trap his victims, who were aged between 12 and 22. They were shot, strangled or stabbed to death.

As the verdict was read out, the families of the victims, seated in the first row of the public gallery and clutching white roses and pictures of their loved ones, sobbed and hugged each other.

"I can breathe again," said Marie-Jeanne Laville, the mother of 17-year-old Isabelle who was kidnapped on her way home from school in 1987, raped and killed. Laville said she was "very satisfied" with the verdict.

"We will now try to return to a nearly normal life," said Jean-Pierre Leroy, whose 20-year-old daughter Fabienne was snatched from a supermarket car park in 1988 and killed by a shotgun blast to the chest.

Gerard Chemla, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, hailed the judgement.

"It shows that justice remains measured but also particularly severe, because the facts are particularly abominable."

Fourniret's lawyer has said his client would not appeal the decision.

Olivier, charged in the murder of one of the young women and complicity in several others, was finally convicted of complicity in four murders and in one rape. Her lawyer said she might appeal.

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.

The couple was only arrested in 2003 when a Belgian teenage girl managed to escape from Fourniret's vehicle and went to the police.

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.

Olivier could also be charged for complicity in at least two of the killings.

Her parents Roger Parrish and Pauline Sewell said in a statement: "This is not the final chapter in our quest for justice for Joanna. We must wait to see if Fourniret is to be charged in connection with her death."

[AFP / Expatica]

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