After a high profile trial lasting two months, a court in northeastern France on Wednesday found Michel Fourniret, the country’s most notorious serial killer in decades, guilty on seven counts of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
His wife, Monique Olivier, was sentenced to 28 years behind bars for complicity.
Between 1987 and 2001 Fourniret carried out a series of kidnappings in northern France and Belgium.
His prey were girls and young women aged from 12 to 21 whom he stalked to feed what prosecutors during the trial called his “obsession for virgins". Fourniret lured them into his car with the help of his wife before raping and then stabbing, shooting or strangling them to death.
Belgian police eventually detained the couple in June 2003 after a failed attempt to kidnap a 13-year-old girl. She was able to escape from their vehicle and later identify the car licence number. In 2005 both Fourniret and Olivier were handed over to French authorities for trial.
Fourniret admitted to the murders and offered no real defence as such at his trial, leaving his lawyers floundering somewhat as they tried to defend what even they agreed was the indefensible.
After confessing his guilt Fourniret basically refused to co-operate with the courts apart from offering some incoherent written statements from time to time and insisting that his crimes had been unpardonable. He even went as far as to describe himself as "an extremely dangerous individual.”
The relative silence from the defendant throughout the trial didn’t stop the media though. There were almost daily reports on both television and in the press over the two months the trial lasted detailing some of the most macabre aspects of the crime and the distress of those who had lost family members.
Such coverage of course led many to raise concerns about not so much the purpose of a trial whose outcome was perhaps inevitable from the outset, but the way in which it was reported by the media.
Although the trial undoubtedly gave the families of the victims the chance to face Fourniret directly and to an extent vent their anger and desire for justice, it also left many questions unanswered as he simply refused to allow himself to be defended or offer explanations of any sort.
Several of the families have declared themselves “satisfied” with the verdict, and perhaps after all the trial really was for their benefit, to help them achieve some sort of closure.
But it remains questionable just how effective that will have been given Fourniret’s constant refusal to speak or give any clues as to his motives.
Neither the 66-year-old Fourniret nor his 59-year old wife will appeal their sentences and as he’ll not be eligible for parole for another 30 years the life sentence should be just that – life.
Few – if any – would argue against that being the right decision, nor the fact that not only has justice been done but that it has also been seen to be done.
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