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Widow of serial killer who preyed on virgins faces trial over cold cases

The widow of a French serial killer who sought out virgins to rape and murder will face trial from Tuesday over her role in three murders dating back several decades, including the killing of a British woman whose body was found in a river in 1990.

Monique Olivier was married to Michel Fourniret, who was charged with abduction, rape and murder in the cases but died in 2021, aged 79, before he could be brought to trial.

The crimes date back to 1988 in the case of Marie-Angele Domece, who disappeared aged 18 from Auxerre, and 1990 for 20-year-old British woman Joanna Parrish, whose naked body was found in the Yonne river that runs through the department of the same name in central France.

Olivier is charged with aiding and abetting the kidnapping and murder of the girls.

Her third charge is for complicity in the 2003 disappearance of nine-year-old Estelle Mouzin, whose body has never been found two decades on, despite intensive searches.

French gendarmes control the access to the excavation site in Issancourt-et-Rumel, northern France, on October 11, 2022, as part of a new search campaign for the body of Estelle Mouzin, alleged victim of serial killer Michel Fourniret in 2003.  FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP via Getty Images

The body of Domece has also never been found.

All of Fourniret's victims - most of whom were raped - were shot, strangled or stabbed to death, the BBC reported. Most were killed in the Ardennes region of northern France and in Belgium.

Many of the witnesses set to be called in the three-week trial are investigators from France and Belgium, where Fourniret was arrested in 2003.

They are also set to include Sabine Kheris, the investigating magistrate who took Fourniret's confession.

She is now in charge of a recently created cold cases unit based in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. This case is the first of the unit's to come to trial.

The "ogre of the Ardennes"

France has for years been simultaneously repelled and fascinated by the crimes of Fourniret, who was dubbed the "ogre of the Ardennes" by media after the hilly region on the French-Belgium border where he lived and preyed on his victims.

Monique Olivier, left, and her husband Michel Fourniret
Monique Olivier, left, and her husband Michel Fourniret, who were convicted of hunting for young virgins to rape and kill in crimes committed in France and Belgium from 1987 to 2003, are shown in 2008 file photos.  AP Photo

The trial is "the result of a very long battle", said Didier Seban, a lawyer representing Estelle's father, Eric.

The fact Fourniret never stood trial for the crimes shows "we didn't manage to run the investigation the way it should have been", Seban said.

Fourniret himself asked in 2008 to be tried in all three cases but "nothing was done", said Monique Herrmann, a lawyer for Domece's family.

The trial of Olivier alone is "somewhat short of the mark" for Eric Mouzin, who threw all his energy into finding out what happened to his daughter.

"It will be difficult to pass judgement with only a single defendant," he said, even though Olivier herself is charged with "significant" crimes.

Neither does he hope for anything from the woman in the dock herself, beyond seeing her "sentenced in line with the seriousness of the crime".

Olivier's lawyer, Richard Delgenes, said the court should "not expect any revelations" on her part but that her "participation" in the process is what sets her apart from her husband.

"Unlike him, she takes no special pleasure in the pain of his victims or of the families," he added.

The 75-year-old has already been convicted twice of aiding and abetting in some of her husband's crimes.

She fled in the early 1980s from her violent first husband, with whom she had two children, before becoming a pen pal of Fourniret while he was serving a jail sentence for rape.

The two sealed a pact that she would find him virgins to rape if he would kill her then-husband -- which he never did.

They lived together after he was released in 1987 -- buying a chateau with stolen gold dug up from a graveyard -- and had a son together.

Olivier received a life sentence in 2008 over her role in four murders and a rape committed by Fourniret.

In 2018, Olivier was given a further 20 years' jail for her part in the killing of Farida Hammiche, the wife of one of Fourniret's former cellmates.

In 2019, she overturned her husband's alibi for the day Estelle Mouzin disappeared, prompting him to admit responsibility months later.

Fourniret had earlier admitted killing Parrish and Domece.

"I am the only one responsible for their fates... If those people had never crossed my path, they would still be alive," he told investigators.

Olivier said in 2020 that her husband kidnapped, raped and killed Mouzin, a fragment of whose DNA was found on a mattress seized from the couple's home in 2003.

And in 2021 she admitted her own role in the case for the first time, saying she was with her husband when he buried the girl's body near a forest in the Ardennes.

Who were the victims?

The BBC reported that the couple's first victim was 17-year-old Isabelle Laville.

In 1987, Olivier pulled her van up to Laville when she was walking home from school, told the student she was lost and convinced her to het in the vehicle to help her with directions, the BBC reported. They later stopped to pick up Fourniret, who ultimately raped and murdered the teen, the BBC reported.

The Case Of Michel Fourniret And Monique Olivier: Jean-Pierre Laville, Father Of Isabelle, The First Victim Of Michel Fourniret In Mulhouse, France On March 11, 2008.
Jean-Pierre Laville, father of Isabelle, the first victim of Michel Fourniret In Mulhouse, France on March 11, 2008. Pool DEMANGE/MARCHI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

For 16 years, the couple worked together in the abduction and murder of at least eight girls and young women, the BBC reported.  They were finally stopped in 2003, when a 13-year-old girl Fourniret was trying to kidnap managed to escape, leading to his and Olivier's arrest.

The BBC reported that Fourniret's known victims were Isabelle Laville, Fabienne Leroy, Jeanne-Marie Desramault, Elisabeth Brichet, Natacha Danais, Celine Saison, Mananya Thumphong, Farida Hammiche, Marie-Angèle Domèce, Joanna Parrish and Estelle Mouzin.

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