Student's murder: Police suspect 'Beast of Ardennes'

The rape and murder of an English student in France in 1990 may be finally solved after 18 years of false starts and judicial bungles.

Michel Fourniret, 65, a serial murderer who has already admitted killing seven young women, is expected to be accused next month of the murder of Joanna Parrish, 21, near Auxerre in Burgundy in May 1990.

Fourniret, known as the "beast" or "ogre" of the Ardennes, has denied killing the young woman. However, evidence given to investigators by his accomplice, Monique Olivier, has persuaded two investigating magistrates to seek a prison meeting with him on 11 March. They are expected to place him under formal investigation for the murder.

Ms Parrish, from Gloucestershire, was teaching English at a lycée in Auxerre, on a year off from Leeds University. She disappeared on 16 May 1990 after keeping an appointment with a man who answered her newspaper advertisement offering private English lessons to children. Her naked body was found floating in the river Yonne the next day.

Olivier has admitted helping Fourniret trap and murder seven young women between 1987 and 2001. She has also described several other killings, one of which closely resembles the Parrish case.

Ms Parrish's parents and their French lawyers have fought an often uphill battle to keep the investigation into her murder alive.

They complain that her death was never properly investigated. Obvious leads were ignored; key DNA evidence was lost for 10 years; the evidence given by one witness has disappeared from the file.

The Parrish family lawyer said the Parrish case had been, until recently, the victim of "judicial closed-mindedness".

Fourniret and Olivier will go on trial on 27 March for seven other murders. The Parrish case is likely to become part of a second trial.

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