The virgin hunters
How police locked up this sick husbandand-wife duo
There was a distinctive pattern in a string of murders committed in the Forest of Ardennes from 1987 to 2001. The victims, aged 12 to 30, were lured into a van by a couple asking directions on the roadside or at railway stations in the wooded border region between France and Belgium.
They were kidnapped, brutally raped and killed – some suffocated, others shot or stabbed with a screwdriver.
In summer 2003, Michel Fourniret, then 61, a carpenter who’d never had a steady job, was arrested.
The suspected serial killer had previous convictions for sexual assault and rape in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Yet, he’d been freed early after another rape conviction in 1987.
Within months, he and his future wife Monique Olivier had embarked on a spree lasting at least 14 years.
In May 2008, Fourniret was convicted of killing and raping seven women and girls and jailed for life without parole. He remains suspected of several others. Olivier, then 59, was convicted of being her husband’s accomplice in four murders and one rape, and jailed for life with a 28-year minimum sentence.
The prosecution described Fourniret and Olivier as a ‘devil with two faces’.
But after so many years, how did detectives catch them? We look at the case’s key moments to find out…
THE GIRL WHO GOT AWAY
By summer 2003, Fourniret and Olivier were already seasoned killers, and they’d soon picked their next potential victim.
A 13-year-old girl, known only as Marie.
As she walked along a road in her Belgian hometown of Ciney, a white Citroen van pulled up beside her.
The driver, Fourniret, asked Marie for directions before insisting she got in the vehicle to show him the way.
When she did, Fourniret pounced, tied her hands and feet, threatening to kill her as she screamed.
Only, as Fourniret drove off, Marie managed to gnaw through the ropes around her wrists.
When the van stopped at a junction, she leapt out, and a passing car took her to the police station.
The quick-witted driver had managed to get the van’s number plate, leading detectives straight to Fourniret.
Testifying during the trial, Marie said the ordeal made her feel like she was ‘in a film’.
‘He said to me “shut up or I’ll kill you; you must give me pleasure and if you don’t, you won’t be going home”.’
Monique Olivier met Fourniret in the mid-1980s when he was serving time for rape. She’d replied to his magazine ad for a pen pal – and through their vile letters, the couple formed a pact...
Olivier would find Fourniret virgins to satisfy his twisted obsession – if he killed her husband.
Upon Fourniret’s early release in 1987, Olivier was waiting at the prison gates.
He never murdered her first husband, but Olivier held up her end of deal, and they began ‘virgin hunting’ within months. They married in 1989.
Even when Fourniret was arrested in June 2003, she loyally kept quiet.
Only, the following summer, notorious Belgian rapist Marc Dutroux was jailed for life for the kidnap and rape of six young and teenage girls.
And Olivier was horrified to discover that Dutroux’ ex-wife Michelle Martin was handed a 30-year sentence for being complicit in the deaths of two of Dutroux’ victims and the abduction of others.
Fearing the same fate as Martin, Olivier handed herself in.
She told the police everything, claiming she’d been terrified and trapped by her violent husband Fourniret.
Yet her attempt to save herself backfired – she unwittingly handed detectives everything they needed to lock them both up for a very long time.
THE BURIAL GROUND
After his wife’s betrayal, Fourniret confessed to nine killings between 1987 and 2001. He then led officers to two bodies he’d buried in the grounds of Sautou, a chateau he’d owned in northern France. They were Jeanne-Marie Desramault, 22, and Elisabeth Brichet, 12, who’d vanished in 1989.
Fourniret’s statement was chilling: I needed to hunt virgins twice a year,
he wrote. When I knew that I was going hunting and that I would bring something back, I dug the holes in advance, three metres deep.
Fourniret and Olivier went on trial in spring 2008. He admitted an obsession with the ‘symbol of virginity’, a result of discovering on his wedding night his first wife wasn’t a virgin like himself.
Olivier would watch her husband rape and murder through a mirror in another room. Both were found guilty.
Yet prosecutor Yves Charpenel suspects Fourniret is responsible for more murders.
‘He boasts he “hunted” two girls a year. So far, the numbers don’t add up,’ Charpenel says.
Michel Fourniret Short caption