Michel Fourniret is on trial for the murder and rape of seven young women committed between 1987 and 2003. Fourniret appeared in court but refused to speak after his request for a closed hearing was rejected.
The trial of Michel Fourniret, 65, which opens this Thursday in the eastern French city of Charleville-Mézières, leaves little doubt about its outcome.
Fourniret appeared in court, wearing glasses and a blue pullover, after saying he might not attend the trial. But he refused to speak after his request to hold a closed hearing was rejected.
The self-confessed "virgin hunter", nicknamed the “Ogre of the Ardennes” by French and Belgian media, is being tried for the murder of seven young women or teenagers — and as many rapes or attempted ones — committed between 1987 and 2003. In most cases, he himself led investigators to the victims’ bodies.
“There is no doubt as to what the outcome will be,” Pierre Blocquaux, one of his five lawyers told the French daily France Soir. “Even if he had confessed to one of the murders, he would have got a life sentence.”
Monique Olivier, victim or accomplice?
Also under question in this Franco-Belgian trial is the role of Monique Olivier, the 59-year-old wife of Fourniret, who faces charges of complicity.
Olivier and Fourniret met after he was imprisoned in 1984. She responded to an advertisement he had placed looking for a pen pal. After Fourniret’s release from jail in 1987, the couple moved to eastern France, and less than two months later, they committed their first murder, of a 17-year-old woman whose body they hid in a well.
In 2003, the Fourniret were arrested and jailed in Belgium after a failed attempt to kidnap a girl. Olivier's later confession to the Belgian police incriminated her husband.
Fourniret and investigators have described Olivier as mute and passive. But court-appointed psychologists have called her an intelligent and deceptive.
"She has intellectual capacities that allow her to take initiative," Jean-Luc Ployé, one of these experts, told France Inter radio. “She may have pushed Fourniret to crimes, but it’s obvious that Fourniret already was a criminal before he met her.”
Her role may have been one of catalyst. At his side, she may have helped Fourniret carry out his deadly plans. Jean-François Abgrall, a former policeman who arrested the notorious serial killer Francis Heaulme, said of Fourniret: “When he commited crimes on his own, he was regularly caught by police.”
A normal-seeming couple
What sets the Fourniret case aside from other equally disturbing ones is the apparent banality of this couple with children.
“Fourniret apparently led a very normal social life,” said Abgrall. “A Belgian newspaper even wrote that people called him a good neighbor.”
At least twice, it was Olivier who attracted the young girls by playing the role of a normal mother. One day, she even used her son to attract a victim by pretending to be looking for a doctor for her sick child.
“This fuelled the couple's fantasies and became an infernal logic,” said Ployé.
Why would they do it?
The complexity of the Fourniret case has also a lot to do with the lack of obvious motive behind their crimes.
“To find a motive, you have to look inside the killer’s fantasies,” said Stéphane Bourgoin, who contributed to the writing of a book in the name of the victims.
The suspects never seem to have used the same method to get rid of their victims and left no signature to their crimes. The closest to a motive there is for Fourniret is his alleged obsession with young virgins.
"All their acts and modus operandi are apparently different," said Abgrall, the former policeman. “But when you try to make sense of his actions and what he wanted to do to the victim, you find common points in acts that seem different.”
By putting together seemingly unrelated acts and by showing that they indicated a similar criminal intent, the prosecution was able to add three cases which would have otherwise fallen under the statute of limitations.
The trial’s ambiguities
The Fourniret case has contributed to pushing the issue of police and judicial cooperation inside the European Union higher on the Brussels agenda.
Fourniret, a native of the Ardennes region which spreads over France, Belgium, Germany and Luxemburg, took advantage of the impunity granted by moving abroad. Although he had a criminal record in France of assault on underage children, he was able to briefly find work in a school cafeteria in Belgium.
But the idea of a shared centralized European criminal database was quickly dropped. The judiciaries of the European member states committed only to electronic linking of their national records.
The two month-long trial has not brought an end to the dark saga of Fourniret. Fourniret was charged this month for the murders of Marie-Angèle Domèce and Joanna Parrish, who disappeared in 1988 and 1990. He’s been suspected in a dozen other cases in France and Belgium.
The French journalist Alain Hamon, who with other journalists from the Credo news agency, specializes in crime reporting, engaged in a lengthy correspondence with Fourniret, said he didn’t feel any fascination for the man.
He describes “an insufferable man, who in his letters, gives writing and reading lessons, quotes from the great authors. But if you add the letters to the testimonies we got, he’s just a loser.”
According to the latest news, Fourniret said he would not attend the trial past the first day. “By letting the trial unfold without him, Fourniret expresses his power,” said Bourgoin. “He knows that he is going to be found guilty, but he wants to remain the master of the game.”
Date created : 2008-03-27