Infos toute fraiche : Victims of French serial killer face last chance for justice as accomplice of ‘Ogre’ goes on trial | France

Infos toute fraiche Victims of French serial killer face

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For more than 30 years, the parents of British student Joanna Parrish have battled for justice for their daughter, murdered by the French serial killer Michel Fourniret in 1990.

Often, when the killer was still unidentified and at large, Roger Parrish and his ex-wife Pauline would travel to northern Burgundy looking for clues, appealing for witnesses, badgering seemingly insouciant investigators to do their job, seeking answers they never found.

Fourinet, known as the “Ogre of the Ardennes”, was eventually caught and jailed for life in 2008 for the murder of seven other girls and young women. It was another decade before he admitted killing Parrish and two more victims whose bodies have never been found – 19-year-old Marie-Angèle Domèce, who disappeared on her way home from school in 1988, and nine-year-old Estelle Mouzin, who vanished in 2003. But Fourniret died in 2021 before he could be brought to trial for the murders.

Joanna Parrish from Newham on Severn, near Gloucester, was raped and murdered by Michel Fourniret in 1990 while working as an English teacher during her gap year.
Joanna Parrish from Newham on Severn, near Gloucester, was raped and murdered by Michel Fourniret in 1990 while working as an English teacher during her gap year. Photograph: PA

On Tuesday, in what is the families’ last hope for justice, Monique Olivier, the killer’s former wife and accomplice currently serving life in prison for her role in the 17-year campaign of kidnaps and killings that traumatised France, will appear in a Paris court charged with complicity in the abduction of Domèce, Parrish and Mouzin.

For Roger Parrish, a retired civil servant from Newnham on Severn in Gloucestershire, the trial of Olivier, now 75, is the bitter culmination of incompetence by the French police and judiciary that has “let down” his family. “Fourniret will never be convicted of the murder of our daughter and it is the fault of the French justice system,” he said earlier this year.

Auxerre in northern Burgundy, a two-hour drive south-east from Paris, is a picture-postcard city on the River Yonne dominated by a 13th-century cathedral and surrounded by Chablis vineyards. Joanna Parrish, a Leeds University language student, arrived here aged 20 in 1989 for an eight-month stint as a teaching assistant at the Jacques-Amyot lycée.

She was saving to get married and had placed an advertisement in a local newspaper offering private English lessons and babysitting. On the evening of 16 May 1990, she told friends she was meeting a man who wanted her to teach his son. The next morning, Joanna’s bound and naked body was found in the Yonne at Monéteau, three miles north of Auxerre. She had been beaten, raped and strangled.

From the start, Roger and Pauline were struck by the lackadaisical nature of the police investigation. There was no appeal for witnesses, and no attempt to match DNA traces to local suspects, even after inquiries had established the murder was one of a series of unsolved killings, sex attacks and abductions dating back more than 20 years, including Domèce’s disappearance from near the Jacques-Amyot secondary school two years previously. There were so many unsolved cases, they became collectively known in press reports as “the disappeared of the Yonne”.

At the time, Fourniret and Olivier were living 12 miles from Auxerre, where they had moved after his release from prison.

He already had several convictions for sexual offences against minors dating back to the late 1960s and had been jailed in 1984 for multiple sexual assaults. Six weeks after his release in 1987, 17-year-old Isabelle Laville disappeared while walking home from school in an Auxerre suburb and was found to have been drugged, raped and strangled. But police made no connection between Fourniret and the disappearance and murder of the young women. After Laville’s killing, Fourniret and Olivier – who met after she wrote to him in jail – travelled between France and Belgium, where the disappearances and killings continued for almost 20 years.

Their modus operandi was simple: Olivier would stop their white Citroën van to ask for directions and suggest the potential victim, inevitably less suspicious of a female, jump in to show the way. Fourniret was either hiding in the back of the vehicle or waiting nearby to be picked up.

The pair were arrested in Belgium in 2003 after an abducted 17-year-old girl escaped from Fourniret’s car and gave details to police. A year later, Olivier told investigators that Fourniret had killed Domèce and Parrish. The cases were reopened and he was charged with their murders – charges that were dropped when she retracted her claims. It was only in a series of cold-case reviews between 2018 and 2020 that Fourniret admitted killing Parrish, Domèce and Mouzin.

Defence lawyer Richard Delgenes has said Olivier will take the stand and speak at the trial, though the families’ lawyers say the grim details are already known and in the investigation files. Didier Seban, lawyer for the Parrish and Mouzin families, said they were hoping she would be tried in her own right “as the co-author of their misfortune”, and not regarded as an accomplice to her late husband.

Roger Parrish and Pauline Sewell will attend the second week of the trial, when Olivier will be questioned about Joanna’s murder. “We already know a lot of details, but what the families want is a conviction,” Seban said. The Fourniret case had shown up “serious faults and failures” in the French legal system, he said. “The police were not keeping track of him [Fourniret] and they should have been.”

Mouzin’s father, Éric, who has spent 20 years campaigning for justice for Estelle, has also lambasted police for failing to link Fourniret to her disappearance and that of the others. He said he had few expectations of Olivier’s appearance in court.

“I don’t expect anything from her. To put oneself in the position of asking for something is to do oneself further harm. I’m trying to keep my distance,” he said.

Corinne Herrmann, lawyer for Marie-Angèle Domèce’s siblings, said the trial showed it was “never too late for justice, for answers”. “The pain is still there for them so it’s important for them to be able to see in person the accused, to hear that person explain what they did,” she added.

Sadly, Claude Domèce, Marie-Angèle’s father, will never know where his daughter is buried, even if Olivier does reveal it in court. He died a week ago, aged 95.

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