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French serial killer dies leaving dozens of cold-cases unsolved

The killer was convicted of eight murders and suspected of numerous other crimes against girls and young women. He previously told police he 'hunted at least two virgins per year'

11 May 2021
Natacha Danais, Manania Thumpong and Elisabeth Brichet. French serial killer dies, leaving dozens of cold-cases unsolved

From left: Natacha Danais, Manania Thumpong and Elisabeth Brichet were three of the victims Pic: @VanlooFlorence1 / Vanloo Florence / Twitter

By Joanna York

A French serial killer convicted of eight murders has died, ending hopes that he might have been brought to justice for suspected involvement in several cold cases.

Michael Fourniret, 79, died on May 10, after being hospitalised since April 28 at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. He had been in prison for almost 20 years, and was suffering from Alzheimer’s. 

Mr Fourniret, who targeted girls and young women, was found guilty of eight murders, charged for four others, and was suspected of being involved in dozens of other cold cases.

Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti said he understood the frustration of families who had hoped to take Mr Fourniret to trial over cold-cases involving their loved ones.

He told France Inter today: “That can no longer be done. I obviously understand the immense expectations of these families, who cannot get answers.”

The minister added: “He was however judged, and condemned to life in prison. He died in prison.”

Killer found guilty of eight murders, later admits more

In his lifetime, Mr Fourniret was charged with many crimes, and suspected of committing dozens more.

He was arrested in Belgium in 2003, for trying to abduct a 13-year-old girl who was on her way to school, after which his wife, Monique Olivier, told detectives that he had committed multiple murders from 1987 – 1990. 

In 1987 he had been released from prison after serving seven years for sexual assault against numerous young women in the Paris area. His wife said her husband was obsessed with the idea of virginity.

In 2008, at 66 years old, Mr Fourniret was sentenced to life imprisonment by courts in Ardennes, Grand Est, after being found guilty of assaulting three girls and young women who managed to escape, and murdering seven others, aged from 12-22 years old. 

The seven murdered women and girls were Isabelle Laville, Fabienne Leroy, Jeanne-Marie Desramault, Elisabeth Brichet, Natacha Danais, Céline Saison, and Manania Thumpong.

 

In 2018, Mr Fourniret admitted to two further murders, of Joanna Parrish and Marie-Angèle Domece. He had been charged with the murders in 2008, but the case never went to trial. His wife was also charged as an accomplice in the two cases.

In 2018, he was also found guilty of an eighth murder which occurred in 1988, of 30-year-old Farida Hammiche.

In 2019, he was charged with the 2003 “abduction and illegal confinement leading to the death” of nine-year-old Estelle Mouzin, after an alibi his wife had provided collapsed. 

In December 2019 and January 2021, the couple were charged with “abduction and illegal confinement leading to the death” of Lydia Logé, who was 29 when she disappeared in 1993.

Death means cold cases may go unsolved 

After his death, his lawyers cited the “value” of Mr Fourniret's confessions in the later years of his life, in light of his diminished mental capacity due to Alzheimer’s disease.

He had previously told police that he “hunted at least two virgins per year”, which, if true, means that he would have killed around 30 women from 1987-2003.

Police unit l'Office central pour la répression des violences aux personnes compiled a list of 70 cold cases in which it thought Mr Fourniret may have been involved.

Now that he has died, cases that he is suspected of being involved in are unlikely to go to trial, although families hope his wife may still be tried as an accomplice.

Lawyer Didier Seban, who represents four of the cold-case files, has called for the creation of a police unit specialised in investigating cold cases following instances of police failing to try and match DNA samples from victims against those of the known serial killer. 

He told France Info: “This shows that we don’t know how to investigate cold cases and serial killers in France.”

He said now that Mr Fourniret had died “a part of the truth has been lost” for the affected families.

Lawyers for the families have called for the creation of a national body of judges specialised in serial killer cases.  

Justice Minister Mr Dupond-Moretti said the suggestion had been discussed in parliament and was being considered.

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