The trial of Monique Olivier, the ex-wife of French serial killer Michel Fourniret, will begin tomorrow (November 28), in connection with the kidnap and murder of three women, including British student Joanna Parrish.
The case will open before the Court of Assizes in Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine).
Olivier, 75, is currently serving a minimum term of 28 years for her role in her ex-husband’s crimes. She will appear in the dock alone. Fourniret died in May 2021, after having been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 2008.
The trial is expected to last three weeks. Olivier is charged as an accomplice in three cases of kidnapping, abduction and murder: Marie-Angèle Domece, 19, in 1988; Joanna Parrish, 20, in 1990; and Estelle Mouzin, nine, in 2003.
The couple has been linked to the murders of 12 young girls and children, but Fourniret only admitted to eight before his death.
Procès de Monique Olivier : "c'est un échec que ce procès se tienne si tard" déclare Maître Didier Seban️, l'avocat des familles des trois victimes, à la veille du début du procès https://t.co/ypMO3weaV3 pic.twitter.com/WWgzlqhsU3— France Bleu (@francebleu) November 27, 2023
Olivier and Fourniret became a couple while the latter was in prison for sexual assault. He had advertised for a pen pal to help him “forget solitude” in a newspaper. Olivier would ask for his help in killing her ex-husband.
Although he never did kill the ex-husband, Fourniret did ask for Olivier’s help to “hunt virgins”.
The pair would be arrested in 2003, and their later admittance to at least eight murders would make them the most prolific serial killing couple in French history.
Investigators believe that they were responsible for even more murders. One former prosecutor, Francis Nachbar of Charleville-Mézières, has said that he is “convinced that there are 15 to 20 more victims”, who were killed during the years of 1990-2000.
Olivier has often been considered as the ‘weak link’ when it comes to questioning the couple, as she was nearly always the one who ‘broke’ first when being questioned in connection with the crimes. She first admitted to involvement in six, then eight, then 10 murders.
Didier Seban, lawyer for several of the victims' families, told FranceInfo that this trial could be one of the last opportunities to make progress on several unsolved cases. He said: “We will have a number of questions to ask, as this is certainly one of the last times that we will be able to hear Monique Olivier at length.”
Among the still-unanswered questions are the locations of the bodies of Estelle Mouzin, and Marie-Angèle Domece, which have never been found.
Olivier said she had accompanied Fourniret to the edge of the Issancourt-et-Rumel wood (Ardennes) so that he could bury Miss Mouzin’s body, but no remains have ever been discovered. Olivier has also said that Ms Domece was buried in a “damp place”.
Read our previous article: French serial killer’s ex may face trial over murder of UK student
‘Everything has been said’
But Olivier’s lawyer, Richard Delgenès, has said that his client has already revealed everything she knows, and added that the new trial would give her a chance to “repeat her confessions”, or even retract certain statements.
He told BFMTV today (November 27): “What is expected of an assize court is that we repeat what we told the examining magistrate. There is never, or rarely, any discovery or anything new in such a trial.
“Monique Olivier has made a full confession, and we know how the various crimes unfolded hour by hour. What we were waiting for was for her to repeat her confession, nothing more, nothing less.
“There are no grey areas in Monique Olivier’s file…everything has been said.”
Who was Joanna Parrish?
Ms Parrish was one of the couple’s victims, and was a British tutor and French language student at Leeds University.
Originally from Gloucestershire in the UK, she was working in Bourgogne as part of her degree in 1990, when she went missing on May 16-17 after posting a local advert for private English lessons.
Her body was later found in a river in Monéteau (Yonne). She had been sexually abused, beaten, and strangled. Olivier gave police statements to link her ex-husband to the crime. However, she later withdrew them and said they had been made under duress.
Fourniret admitted to the murders of Miss Mouzin, Ms Domece, and Ms Parrish before he died.
‘French justice has let us down’
In an interview with Le Parisien in March this year, Ms Parrish’s father, Roger Parrish, said: “Fourniret will never be convicted of our daughter’s murder, and it is the French justice department’s fault. That is very hard to accept, because we have been waiting for a trial for 30 years.
“For a long time, the courts refused to believe us or our lawyer when we asked for the Fourniret case to be examined,” he said.
“They took their time when Joanna's murder could have been tried much sooner. All these years, we have had the feeling that we do not exist. French justice has often let us down, and that continues today.”
Mr Parrish and his wife, Pauline Sewell, will not attend Olivier’s trial.
“Going to France would cost us a lot of money, and the French justice system has never reimbursed any of our travel expenses in all these years,” he said. “It is already too late.”