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Killer’s wife says role in British student’s death ‘unforgivable’

Monique Olivier had until now been largely silent at the hearing into her role in her husband's murders
Monique Olivier had until now been largely silent at the hearing into her role in her husband's murders - Copyright AFP Benoit PEYRUCQ
Monique Olivier had until now been largely silent at the hearing into her role in her husband's murders - Copyright AFP Benoit PEYRUCQ

The widow of a French serial killer known as the “Ogre of the Ardennes” on Tuesday admitted she played an “unforgivable” role in the 1990 rape and murder of British student Joanna Parrish by her former husband.

Confronted with images of Parrish’s swollen face after her body was pulled from the river Yonne, Monique Olivier said that “it’s because of me she’s gone, it’s unforgivable”.

She remained silent in the glass-screened dock for long moments as she looked at the pictures, before pushing them away with a trembling hand.

Olivier is on trial for her role in three kidnappings and murders by her late husband Michel Fourniret and her role in rapes and attempted rape in two of the cases.

On “hunts” with her husband, Olivier said during cross-examination that “I was the dog, I was never anything but the dog that must obey” its master.

Now aged 75 and serving a life sentence issued in 2008, she is on trial for her part in the abduction, rape and murder of 20-year-old Joanna in 1990 and 18-year-old Marie-Angele Domece in 1988.

Fourniret himself, who died in 2021 before any trial for the three killings, said of Domece and Parrish in 2018 that “I am the only one responsible for their fates… If those people had not crossed my path, they would still be alive.”

Olivier is also charged with complicity in the disappearance of nine-year-old Estelle Mouzin in 2003, whose body has never been found two decades on despite intensive searches.

Domece’s remains have also never been found, while Parrish’s naked body was recovered from the Yonne in the French department of the same name.

– ‘Like a coward’ –

Olivier recounted how she remained in the front seat of the couple’s car when Fourniret climbed into the back to kill and rape Parrish in May 1990.

“Like a coward, I do nothing, I hear her scream a little but I don’t intervene. It’s fear, panic, (I am) unable to do anything at all,” she said.

“You don’t tell him, ‘no, don’t get in’? You don’t leave the car? You know she’s going to die, and you let him get in?” asked Didier Seban, a lawyer for the Parrish and Mouzin families. Olivier remained silent.

The Parrish family had left the courtroom Tuesday when Joanna’s murder was discussed, staying away during Olivier’s questioning.

Olivier had mostly responded with “I don’t remember” or “I can’t recall” in between long silences and sighs during questioning from judge Didier Safar.

Wearing the same white sweater as throughout the hearings so far, she said that “I can’t manage to remember all of the details. I mix them up with other” killings.

Fourniret is believed to have answered a classified ad Parrish bought in a local paper offering English lessons — hoping to earn money to visit her boyfriend in Czechoslovakia.

Parrish’s family, then-boyfriend and their lawyer had on Monday pressed the idea that the young woman would never have got into a car alone with a strange man to highlight Olivier’s vital role.

“I was bait,” Olivier acknowledged.

– ‘Just the way things were’ –

The accused said that Fourniret’s string of rapes and murders were “just the way things were” between them and never discussed directly, as she attempted to explain her inability to locate Domece’s remains.

“He didn’t tell me where he left her, for every victim he said, ‘we won’t talk any more about it, we’ll go and do something else.’ That’s the way he was, we weren’t supposed to discuss it again,” Olivier said.

Lawyer Seban said during a break in the hearing that the gaps in Olivier’s memory were “obviously not credible”.

“These are noteworthy events after all, the deaths of young women, the deaths of children,” he added.

Seban also complained that “the judge’s questioning isn’t insistent enough, not sustained enough to push Olivier forward” with her admissions.

Olivier remained silent for a long time when confronted with a picture of Domece.

“What does this face mean to you?” Seban asked.

“That it should never have passed away,” she finally said.

Written By

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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