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A French Horror Story: The Horrifying Crimes of Michel Fourniret and Monique Olivier

Excuse our French. 

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  • Photo Credit: chmyphotography / Unsplash

Nobody ever wants to find themselves praying for their life—but for one thirteen-year-old girl, this terrifying scenario was her reality…  

 In June of 2003, a man in a white van stopped to ask the young girl directions to Mont De la Salle, and to help the stranger, the young girl entered the van to show him the way. The girl reported that once she was in the van, the man’s demeanor changed, his eyes glazed over and he was smiling, but it was an evil smile. 

He bound her hands and ankle with rope before asking her if she was a virgin—and telling her if she was, he was going to take it from her. As he drove, with the young girl tied up in the back of the van, she managed to chew and untie herself free of the ropes and was able to jump out of the van at the next set of lights—and ran for her life. 

The young girl managed to flag down a car that stopped to help. They then drove in the same direction as the van, hoping to pass it—and they did. The driver took down the license plate number and immediately stopped at the nearest police station to inform them of what had happened.  

Who is Michel Fourniret? 

Michel Fourniret was a 62-year-old French forest ranger who lived in Sart, Custine—a remote village with around 150 inhabitants, and he lived with his wife Monique Olivier and their young son.

Fourniret and Olivier met in February 1987 when Fourniret was 45, and Olivier 38, and they met whilst Fourniret was in Fleury Merogis prison in France. 

Whilst in prison, he had placed an advert in a Catholic magazine “Le Pelerin”, and the pair exchanged over 200 letters for the next ten months, which resulted in Fourniret asking Olivier to marry him, to which she said yes - but this wasn’t a fairy tale romance. 

Olivier had been corresponding with Fourniret for those ten months, knowing exactly why he was in there in the first place - the rape, and sexual assault of several young girls.

Fourniret even kept a journal with meticulous descriptions of his victims and the assaults he committed on them. 

Michel Fourniret and Monique Olivier
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  • Photo Credit: Yahoo

The letters between the pair held dark and depraved conversations and revealed Fourniret disturbing fascination with virginity. Fourniret claims he saw a vision of the Virgin Mary when he was twelve years old, and ever since, he became enthralled with the idea of virgins. 

Within the letters, Fourniret referred to his victims and “membranes on legs” and stated that he wanted to “pierce a membrane” with his penis, which he referred to as his “rainbow”. The letters held a depraved sexual pact with Olivier stating that she would find him a virgin, and he would kill her abusive ex-husband (which he never did). In October of 1987, Michel Fourniret was released from prison. 

The police ran the license plate number and saw that the vehicle belonged to Michel Fourniret, and on 27th June 2003, the police began searching Fournirets home, using an array of diggers and ground penetrating technology.

In the house, the police found items of children's clothing, condoms, gags, handcuffs, inhaler masks, pistols, and ski masks; when the police questioned Olivier about their findings, she claimed she had no knowledge of the items, and came across to the officers as a subdued, submissive woman, who only ever looked down at her shoes.  

Fourniret whilst in custody refused to speak or cooperate with the police in any way, shape or form, so they turned to Olivier. Their first impression was that she was probably the “under the thumb” wife to a sinister husband, who would be the weak link.

The police were desperate to reveal any evidence that could implement Fourniret in the disappearance of several young girls, as they feared his year-long detainment would soon end if they could not come up with something. 

They endured insufferably long interviews with a meek Olivier, who would only nod and shake her head. Was she protecting Fourniret?

They couldn’t say for sure, but eventually, after endless interviews, and intense pressure, Olivier finally began to open up, and within half an hour, she had informed the police of six murders—but the whole truth of hers and Fourniret's relationship was much, much darker than anyone could have imagined. 

“It was that vile woman who brought children into this world, but had no respect for other people’s children”  

Michel Fourniret's and Monique Olivier's Victims

Isabelle Laville 

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  • Photo Credit: France Info

On the 11th of December 1987, two months after Fourniret had been released from prison, he spotted his first victim, 17-year-old Isabelle Laville—and the couple formed their insidious plan.

Fourniret exited the van he and Olivier had been driving around in, to allow Olivier to approach Isabelle as she walked home from school so she could offer Isabelle a lift home, and as they drove, they passed Fourniret who pretended to be a hitchhiker—why? 

Because they knew Isabelle would be reluctant to get in the van if Fourniret was there, and that she would feel safer with Olivier. 

However, Olivier then forced Isabelle to take a sedative, Rohypnol, and they drove back to their house. Fourniret had planned to rape Isabelle but struggled to become aroused, so Olivier performed a sexual act on him to “help him”, and he was able to go through with his violent plan.

Fourniret then strangled Isabelle and disposed of her body in a disused well in Bussy-en-Othe.  

Isabelle’s remains were discovered more than eighteen years later, on 11 July 2006. 

Fabienne Leroy 

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  • Photo Credit: Murderpedia

On the 3rd of August 1988, Fourniret and Olivier drove to a supermarket in Chalons-sur-Marnes where they encountered 20-year-old Fabienne Leroy—feigning illness, Olivier and Fourniret asked her to help them find the nearest doctor's surgery.

Fabienne got into the couple's van and they drove her to a remote forest in Mourmelon-Le-Grand where Fourniret raped her, then shot her in the chest with a shotgun. 

Her body was found the next day, on the 4th of August 1988. 

Jeanne-Marie Desramault 

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  • Photo Credit: Les Jours

Jeanne-Marie was invited to Fourniret and Olivier's home after Fourniret met her on a train to Charleville-Mezieres when Jeanne-Marie was staying at a convent. The first time Jeanne-Marie visited their home, nothing happened, but the second time would result in Jeanne-Marie being murdered. 

Fourniret, that evening, began asking Jeanne-Marie about her sex life and if she was a virgin. Clearly disturbed by this line of questioning, Jeanne-Marie attempted to leave the home.

Fourniret and Olivier attacked Jeanne-Marie, holding her down and gagging her with adhesive bandages, before they continued to strangle and suffocate her.  

Jeanne-Marie's remains were discovered when a trash bag with a protruding bone was unearthed in July 2004 at another property the couple owned, a Chateau in Donchery.  

Elisabeth Brichet 

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  • Photo Credit: Last Memories

Elisabeth was 12 years old when she became the next victim of Fourniret and Olivier. Fourniret spotted her as she was walking to a friend's house, they followed her, parked outside the house and waited—for three hours—until Elisabeth emerged.  

By this point, Fourniret and Olivier had their young son with them who was born on the 9th of September 1988 - nine months after the murder of Isabelle Lavelle.

Fourinet and Olivier sat in their vehicle for three hours with their baby boy, and used him to lure Elisabeth into their van, stating that their baby was ill and if she would help them find a doctor. 

When Elisabeth entered the vehicle, the couple drove her back to their home as she was tied to a bed in one of the bedrooms, but when Fourniret attempted to assault her, he saw she was menstruating, and asked Olivier to intervene. Olivier washed the girl's genitals. 

The next day, Fourniret took the young girl to their Chataue and attempted to assault her again, before he strangled her to death. 

Elisabeth’s body was found buried in a 3m deep hole in July of 2004, still wearing the purple raincoat she had on when she was abducted. 

The police at the time wondered how Fourniret and Olivier could afford such a chateau that came with 15 hectares of land, considering Fourniret’s job at the time was only a forestry worker, but the answer came from Jean-Pierre Hellegouarch—a bank robber who was part of “The Wigs” a gang of bank robbers, who shared a cell with him prior to Fournirets release in October of 1987. 

Hellegouarch enlisted the help of his wife, Frida Hammiche, to recover a huge stash that was buried out in some woodland—but unsure whether she was able to carry out the task, she enlisted the help of Fourniret, and Olivier, who had become close with Frida.  

The threesome located the stash and recovered several dozen kilos of gold—gold bullions, coins, cash… but the details of what happened next are unclear, apart from the revelation that Frida was murdered, and died in the trunk of the car they used to drive to the spot where the treasure was buried, from a bayonet wound.

Fourniret and Olivier both implicated each other in the murder. Fourniret took the stash and bought his Chateau for 1.2 million in cash. Fourniret and Olivier were able to live off the rest of the money for the next fifteen years. 

Frida’s body has never been found. 

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  • Photo Credit: Les Jours

Joanna Parrish 

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  • Photo Credit: Sky News

In 1990, Joanna Parish, an English teacher and student from Newnham-on-Severn, Gloucestershire, was working at a school in the Burgundy region of France and placed an advert in a local newspaper offering private English lessons.

After receiving a reply to her advert, Joanna met up with a man in a well-known square in Auxerre, who was looking for an English tutor for his son—the man was Michel Fourniret. 

Fourniret offered to drive her home, but as she entered his van, Fourniret attacked her. Joanna was beaten, raped, and then strangled to death, all while Olivier sat in the front seat of the van. Fourniret then dumped her body in the River Yonne.  

Natacha Danais 

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  • Photo Credit: France Info

Natacha was a 13-year-old girl who was lured into the couple’s van as they asked her for directions in November of 1990 as she walked through a car park in Leclerc Atout Sud; they drove Natacha to a remote area near the coast where Fourniret stabbed Natacha in the chest with a screwdriver before strangling her, and leaving her body on the beach. 

A post-mortem examination concluded that Natachia was raped after she was murdered. 

Celine Saison

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  • Photo Credit: Victims of Homicide

On 17th May 2000, a police officer reported his niece, Celine Sasion, missing, and insisted that Celine was not a runaway, and on 22nd July 2000, Saison’s skeletal remains were discovered by a group of mushroom pickers. 

Fourniret lured 18-year-old Celine Saison into his van as she walked home from school on the 16th of May 2000. He drove her to Sart-Custinne, Gedinne, Belgium, where Fourniret and Olivier had moved to in the early 90s.

Fourniret raped Celine, then strangled her to death and dumped her body in a forest in Sugny. 

Mananya Thumpong 

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  • Photo Credit: De Standaard

Mananya disappeared on May 5, 2001, as she left a library in Sedan, as her mother and stepfather went for groceries; when Mananya didn’t return home that evening, her mother knew something was wrong and roamed the streets with a picture of her daughter, asking if anyone had seen her. 

In March of 2002, a hiker found a skull and discarded items of clothing in woodland in Belgium—these were the remains of Mananya. Fourniret had spotted Mananya several weeks prior and approached her one evening with the offer of going with him to play with his little son.

Fourniret confessed to her murder but denied raping her. However, Olivier stated to police on July 1, 2004, that her husband “had succeeded in penetrating a virgin, even deflowering her before ejaculating"  

Unknown Victim? 

Monique Olivier, whilst being questioned, also told police that Fourniret killed a 16-year-old girl whom the couple had hired as an “au pair” at their home.

Olivier claims she saw Fourniret enter the girl's bedroom, to which she then heard screaming and crying, and claimed that afterward, she never saw the girl again. Olivier also told police that she was the one who wrote the advert advertising for an “au pair”. 

It is alleged that Fourniret killed the young girl in 1993, but this has never been confirmed, nor has the identity of the girl in question. 

The Trial: Fourniret and The Monster 

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  • Photo Credit: Murderpedia

The police undoubtedly wanted the maximum penalty for both Fourniret and Olivier, but they knew it would be harder to get this sentence for Olivier, as she was only implemented in one of the murders. 

The trial started in 2008 and became a media circus, due to the circumstances surrounding the case—although Fourniret was already a convicted rapist, all eyes were on Olivie—how could she, a mother, a woman, help her husband to rape and murder several young girls over the course of ten years?

Olivier was known to play the “controlled” wife, scared of her violent husband, who was forced to carry out his evil plans as she feared he would do the same to her as he did to his many victims. The police always maintained that she came across as a meek, unintelligent, listless housewife—but not everyone was convinced. 

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  • Photo Credit: Le Parisien

In 2005, psychological experts conducted tests on Olivier to determine her intelligence. One test consisted of creating shapes out of white and red blocks, to which Olivier scored 36 out of 40—the French average at the time was 11.

A further test known as the “codes” where she would memorize symbols and match them to a sequence of letters—Olivier scored 76, the French average at the time was 17. Monique Olivier's IQ was 131, putting her in the top 2.2% of the French population. 

Olivier was no longer seen as the dim, controlled housewife of a monster, but instead one half of the devil, some even believed it was Olivier who was the mastermind behind the crimes. 

Michel Fourniret at the time of the trial instantly became insufferable. He refused to answer any questions, and even made a sign “No closed session. Closed mouth”.

He refused to be photographed and even requested for the female jurors to determine whether they were virgins at the time of their marriages—this request, of course, was denied. 

On April 30, 2008, the trial delved into the sex life of Fourniret and Olivier. Fourniret suffered from impotence and would usually need to be aroused by Olivier before he carried out his sexual attacks, and Olivier also confessed that she and Fourniret would replay these scenarios in their sex lives, with Olivier asking for Fourniret to rape her, just as he made his victims beg him. It was also revealed that Olivier was the one who had physically “verified” whether or not the victims were still virgins. 

“When the women in the audience find out what I went through, they’ll understand me”  

 — Monique Olivier during her trial. 

At the trial, during Olivier’s defense, the families left photographs of the victims, along with a single white rose, and they left the courtroom. The families stated that they had no desire to hear anything that would try and lessen or explain Olivier's involvement in the crimes committed against their daughters.

The defense largely leaned on the fact that Olivier deserved a lesser sentence than Fourniret as she was only an accomplice, and that the sole reasoning about her being a mother was unfair as Fourniret was also a father, but he didn’t seem to be receiving quite as much hatred at Olivier. 

Michel Fourniret was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole. 

Monique Olivier was sentenced to 28 years in prison with no parole. 

The Last Victim: Estelle Mouzin 

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  • Photo Credit: Femme Actuelle

Estelle Mouzin disappeared on November 9th, 2003, as she walked home from school.

The police learned that a man had already approached one of her classmates and offered a lift home as her bag looked “heavy” but the young girl declined, stating she was already close to her house. They were able to get a composite sketch of the man in question, along with a description of the vehicle he was driving—a white van.  

The first person to be suspected was Fourniret, who was arrested in June 2003 in Belgium, but he had an alibi—on the night in question, he had been on the phone with his son as it was his birthday, and the phone records verified this phonecall.

However, Olivier would state that it was she who made the call for Fourniret. Olivier also stated that she “took care” of Estelle when Fourniret brought her back to their house and would even take her to the bathroom.  

Estelle Mouzin’s body has never been found.  

She was nine years old. 

Michel Fourniret, riddled with Alzheimer's and heart problems, died in prison at the age of 79.  

Monique Olivier will be eligible to apply for “conditional release” in 2032 - she will be 82 years old.