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France’s most notorious serial killer, ‘Ogre of the Ardennes’, dies in jail at 79

France’s most notorious serial killer, ‘Ogre of the Ardennes’, dies in jail at 79
Michel Fourniret has died in a Paris prison hospital after experiencing respiratory problems, the French authorities confirmed. He confessed to killing 11 young women between 1987 and 2003, many in partnership with his wife.

Fourniret passed away on Monday at the Pitie-Salpetriere secure inter-regional hospital unit (UHSI) in Paris, prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters. He was admitted to the hospital on April 28 with “respiratory” difficulties. He was also dealing with heart problems and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the newspaper Le Parisien.

Over a period of 15 years, Fourniret had strangled, stabbed or shot at least 11 women across northern France and Belgium, aided by his lover and then-wife Monique Olivier. By his own admission, he was “hunting” for virgins to rape and kill. 

He was first convicted of sexual assault in 1977, but given a suspended sentence. In 1984, he was actually jailed – and began a correspondence with Olivier while behind bars. They married in 1989. It was Olivier who eventually confessed the killing spree to the authorities, after a 13-year-old girl they attempted to kidnap successfully escaped in 2003. The pair were arrested in Belgium and extradited to France for their 2008 trial.

Their first victim was 17-year-old Isabelle Laville, who was drugged, raped and strangled in December 1987. Her body was thrown down a well, and wasn’t recovered until 2006. Their last known victim was nine-year-old Estelle Mouzin, who disappeared in January 2003; Olivier confirmed in August 2020 that the schoolgirl had been kidnapped, raped and killed, but her body was never found. 

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Remains of two of the victims were found in the gardens of Chateau du Sautou, an estate Fourniret and Olivier bought in Donchery. The money came from a cache of gold they helped retrieve in 1988, which had been buried in a cemetery by a gang of bank robbers. One of them shared a prison cell with Fourniret in 1987, and put him in touch with his wife, 30-year-old Farida Hammiche.

After Hammiche revealed the location of the loot and paid Fourniret and Olivier 500,000 francs for helping her dig it up, they strangled her and hid the body. They eventually confessed to the killing in 2018.

Fourniret was convicted of seven murders and given a life sentence without parole. He was given a second life sentence in 2018. Olivier was sentenced to life, with the possibility of parole after 28 years.

In addition to Laville, Mouzin and Hammiche, the known victims of Fourniret and Olivier were identified as Fabienne Leroy, Jeanne-Marie Desramault, Elisabeth Brichet, Natacha Danais, Celine Saison, Mananya Thumphong, Marie-Angele Domece, and Joanna Parrish.

Though several other French serial killers since WWII have claimed higher body counts, both the 'Monster of Montmartre' Thierry Paulin and 'Pillow Killer' Yvan Keller targeted elderly women, while Pierre Chanal went after young men. What made the French public especially sickened by the Fourniret case was the fact that Olivier knowingly aided him.

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