Michel Fourniret, the French serial killer known as the “Ogre of the Ardennes,” who was serving two life sentences for the murder of eight people, died on Monday at the age of 79, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said. His victims were mainly girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 22.
Fourniret was convicted in 2008 of murdering seven women and girls between the ages of 12 and 22 after rape or attempted rape. He died in La Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, where he was admitted on April 28 from the nearby prison of Fresnes.
His murderous assault stretched from 1987 to 2001. Fourniret, who admitted to being fascinated by virgins, was arrested in 2003 after a 13-year-old girl escaped from his van and called the police.
By then he was one of Europe’s most notorious serial killers. Nicknamed the “Ogre of the Ardennes”, he committed most of his crimes in the wooded Ardennes of northern France and Belgium.
At the time, the police missed a series of opportunities to trap Fourniret and the lessons learned helped bring about reforms in the way French police investigate serial killings.
Filthy pact with his third wife
Before his killing spree, he was a bespectacled, chess lover of literature who lived in a sprawling castle. But then Fourniret roamed eastern France for 15 years looking for virgins to rape and kill, using his wife to lure young girls to death.
He even bragged to be a “much better” killer than the sadistic Belgian pedophile Marc Dutroux.
Fourniret confessed to eleven murders, including British college student Joanna Parish, but has been linked to other disappearances. His youngest victim was a nine-year-old girl who he raped and murdered months before he was caught in Belgium attempting to kidnap a 13-year-old.
But it was the nasty pact between Fourniret and his third wife, Monique Olivier, that caused even more disgust. She agreed to help him find virgins to rape if he killed her ex-husband.
He used her to trap some of his victims and check their hymens to see if they were virgins.
The ill-fated couple married while Fourniret was serving his second sentence for sexually assaulting young girls.
In prison, he shared a cell with a bank robber of one of France’s most notorious gangs. After his release, the robber’s wife asked Fourniret to dig up stolen gold in a cemetery. But the couple strangled the woman and used the loot to buy a castle.
Fourniret later admitted that he had to hunt for a virgin at least twice a year. And the expansive grounds of the castle became a burial site for at least two of his victims.
The murderer was born on April 4, 1942 in Sedan near the Belgian border in northeastern France. Little is known about his childhood, but he served in the French army during the brutal war of independence in Algeria, which was then part of France.
Later he worked as a carpenter, electrician and even a school supervisor.
Married in prison
His sex crimes began shortly after his return to France, when, as a 25-year-old, he was given an eight-month suspended sentence for assaulting a girl in his native Ardennes.
His first wife divorced him shortly after, but he continued to commit sex crimes until 1984, when he was convicted again of assaulting a young woman.
After his second wife left him, he placed an ad in the newspaper looking for a pen pal and Monique Olivier replied.
She was waiting for him outside a prison near Paris when he was released in October 1987.
Their first joint attack, barely two months later, set the tone for the others. The couple drove next to 17-year-old Isabelle Laville and asked her for directions, persuading her to get into their van and show them the way. She has never been seen again.
Olivier’s presence, sometimes with their little boy, was meant to dispel suspicion.
When a kidnapped girl escaped from his clutches in 2003, Olivier confessed to the Belgian police. Fourniret never killed her ex-husband.
‘Under his spell’
Prosecutors said Olivier was “very much under his spell.” But worried that she could face a heavy prison sentence like that of the wife of the Belgian Dutroux, she spilled the beans.
The couple was tried in France in 2008, with Fourniret sentenced to life for the murder of all seven victims whose bodies were then found. Olivier, now 72, also received a life sentence with no possibility of parole for her complicity.
After nearly 13 years behind bars and in poor health, Fourniret confessed to murdering Parish in 2016 and two more murders two years later.
Last year, the couple – divorced – admitted to murdering and raping nine-year-old Estelle Mouzin on the way home from school near Paris, a few months before their 2003 arrest.
Fourniret collapsed into his prison cell on November 20, just two weeks before police were due to dig for her remains in a remote place where he said he buried the child.
The Parisien newspaper reported Monday morning that he had been taken to hospital with heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease and that doctors had put him in an artificial coma.
He died on Monday in a special security ward of a hospital in Paris after falling ill again in prison last month.
Paris prosecutor Heitz announced an investigation into his death, which is normal procedure in France when a prisoner dies.
( Jowhar with AFP & REUTERS)