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French serial killer’s widow on trial over decades-old murders

Monique Olivier faces trial over three cold cases involving her late husband, Michel Fourniret
Monique Olivier faces trial over three cold cases involving her late husband, Michel Fourniret - Copyright AFP GIL COHEN-MAGEN
Monique Olivier faces trial over three cold cases involving her late husband, Michel Fourniret - Copyright AFP GIL COHEN-MAGEN
Margaux BERGEY

The widow of a French serial killer known as the “ogre of the Ardennes” goes on 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.

The body of Domece has also never been found.

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.

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.

– ‘Very long battle’ –

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 penpal 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.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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