French couple on trial in seven sex slayings
‘Ogre of the Ardenne’ boasted of being ‘far better’ than Belgian serial killer
He is a bespectacled, chess-playing lover of literature, she a quiet, devoted wife. But this seemingly ordinary couple made a sordid pact that she would help him find virgins to rape if he killed her first husband, according to prosecutors.
Sitting side by side in court from Thursday, Michel Fourniret and his wife Monique Olivier will hear charges that he killed seven young women or girls and that she helped carry out one murder and was complicit in four other crimes.
Fourniret, 65, dubbed the “Ogre of the Ardennes” by European media, has shown no remorse for his alleged crimes, say prosecutors, while one girl who escaped his clutches said he boasted he was “far better” than the notorious Belgian pedophile serial killer Marc Dutroux.
He admitted he needed to go hunting for a virgin at least twice a year, prosecutors said.
Olivier, 59, one prosecutor said, is “fearful, very much under the spell of her husband,” whose obsession with virginity seems to have been the main factor in his alleged crimes.
Fourniret began life on April 4, 1942 in Sedan, just 30 kilometres from where he is now being tried in CharlevilleMezieres near the Belgian border.
Little is known of his childhood but he is believed to have served as a young man with the French army in what was then French Algeria. He later became a machine operator and worked over the years as carpenter, electrician and even a supervisor in a school.
His sexual crimes began in the 1960s, when as a 25-year-old he was given an eight-month suspended sentence for attacking a girl in his native Ardennes region of northeastern France and was ordered to seek psychological help.
His first wife, and the mother of his first child, divorced him after that ruling.
He carried on committing crimes of a sexual nature until in 1984 he was arrested for attacking a young woman and placed in detention while he awaited trial. His second wife left him.
While in custody he placed an ad in a newspaper looking for a pen pal. Monique Olivier, a separated mother of two children, responded, and thus began their alleged 15-year killing orgy.
According to letters seized by investigators, the couple concluded a criminal pact: if he killed her first husband, whom she said had abused her, she would help him find young virgins so he could fulfil his fantasies. He never kept his side of the promise. In October 1987, Olivier was waiting outside the prison in the Paris region when Fourniret walked free.
They went to live together south of Paris, married and had a child.
The charges against them in the current trial state that Olivier would play a key part in her husband’s schemes to abduct young women. Their first attack, barely two months after his release, set the tone for the others.
The couple allegedly drove up alongside 17-year-old Isabelle Laville and asked her for directions, and then persuaded her to get into their van and show them the way. She was abducted and murdered.
Olivier’s presence in the vehicle, later allegedly sometimes with her baby son, was aimed at allaying suspicion.
They at one point went to live in a chateau — where bodies of girls were later discovered — near the Belgian border which Fourniret reportedly bought with money he stole from a bankrobber he met in jail.
The apparently normal couple continued abducting women with various ruses until 2003, when a girl Fourniret tried to kidnap in Belgium escaped and raised the alarm.
He was arrested and confessed to several murders after Olivier betrayed him and spilled the beans to Belgian police.
She was reportedly afraid she could get a similar heavy prison sentence to the one given to the wife and accomplice of the killer Marc Dutroux.
The pair are now being held in the same prison in Charleville as they undergo their trial.