'Ardennes' serial killer murdered six more women, claims wife

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The Independent Online

The wife of the "Ardennes serial killer", Michel Fourniret, has accused him of abducting and killing another six young women, bringing the number of his suspected victims to 20.

The wife of the "Ardennes serial killer", Michel Fourniret, has accused him of abducting and killing another six young women, bringing the number of his suspected victims to 20.

In testimony last month, Monique Olivier, who admits helping Fourniret to trap many of his victims, had already added four other alleged murders to an original list of 10.

On the basis of the evidence given by Mme Olivier, one of those four victims is believed to have been Joanna Parrish, 21, a Leeds University student, who was murdered in Burgundy in 1990. Ms Parrish, who was working as a teaching assiatant in Auxerre, disappeared after arranging to meet a man who responded to an advertisement she placed offering English lessons.

Fourniret, 62, has admitted eight murders in France and Belgium between 1987 and 2001. Investigators on both sides of the border - who will meet to compare notes next week - have suspected for months that he may be responsible for many more crimes.

He was arrested in June 2003after a failed attempt to kidnap a teenage girl near Dinant. His wife came forward last June to accuse him of 10 murders, including two with financial motives. He has confessed to eight. Since then, Fourniret has boasted that he had "hunted" and murdered two young women a year.

Investigators say Fourniret has strongly denied his wife's most recent accusations. However, the details given by his wife closely match those of the abduction and death of Ms Parrish. Mme Olivier told investigators that a young woman had been picked up near Auxerre railway station in 1990 and that her bound body had been thrown into a river. These facts fit the circumstances of Ms Parrish's killing.

But the descriptions of the six further killings listed by Mme Olivier this week were much more vague. She said simply that the women had been kidnapped and then murdered at their home at Sart-Custine in the Belgian Ardennes.

Philippe Morandini, an investigating magistrate in the Belgian town of Dinant, said: "It is only a statement. I cannot say whether it is well founded."

M. Fourniret, the son of a steelworker, who has never had a steady job, has a string of convictions for sexual assault and rape in France in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Despite his criminal record, he was freed early from jail after an additional rape conviction in 1987.

Fourniret's 16 years of undetected murders, following his previous convictions, are posing a string of embarrassing questions for the French and Belgian police and judicial systems.

Many want to know why, despite a long record of sexual crimes, he was let out of jail so soon without any attempt to track his movements. Until Mme Olivier came forward, the French and Belgian police were not even aware that a serial killer was operating across their border.

Many of the crimes - including the murder of Ms Parrish - had been investigated separately and the files closed as unsolved.

Fourniret is a skilful chess player and a man who likes to talk in complex, formal French, with many subjunctive verbs and sub-clauses. Since his arrest last year he has played mind and verbal games with Belgian and French investigators. His wife, who met him in jail where she worked as a voluntary prison visitor, has admitted helping him trap many of his victims and watching as he raped and murdered them.

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