FRANCE:MICHEL FOURNIRET (66) and his wife Monique Olivier (60) stood impassively in the dock in the assize court in Charleville- Mézières, northeast France, as the verdict in their trial for the rape and murder of seven girls and young women was read out yesterday.
Neither reacted to the sentences of life imprisonment. The courtroom remained absolutely silent for a long moment after the verdict.
Fourniret will never be eligible for parole. The jury decided that Olivier was an accomplice rather than co-murderer. She may apply for parole after 28 years.
Fourniret has been called "the ogre of the Ardennes" and "France's most accomplished serial killer". Together, he and Olivier are known as "Les Diaboliques".
The couple have 10 days to appeal, the judge noted. But he advised them against it: "It is the wish of the court that the debates which have just occurred put an end to the procedure, so that all may know relief and silence."
At the beginning of the two-month trial, Fourniret refused to talk. Later, he appeared to relish recounting his crimes, telling how he turned his youngest victim, "the little ballerina", 12-year-old Elisabeth Brichet, into "a human wreck".
The families found his testimony worse than silence.
The suffering of the families and the sordid descriptions were almost unbearable. A juror wept when the state pathologist said he thought Natacha Danais (13) was raped after her death.
At age 22, Jeanne-Marie Desramault was Fourniret's oldest victim. Her mother died of grief, and her father, Henri "Papy" Desramault (88), attended the trial in a wheelchair, staring constantly at Fourniret, his frail body wracked with sobs.
A retired train driver, Desramault long haunted the train station where his "ray of sunshine" disappeared, carrying her photograph.
The mother and father of Fabienne Leroy (20), both retired schoolteachers, held hands on the witness stand as they told of the loss of their daughter.
The Fournirets were not prosecuted for an eighth murder, which they admitted committing. Jean-Pierre Hellegouarch, a convicted bank robber, met Fourniret in prison in the 1980s and told him where he had hidden 80 kilos of gold ingots and coins. Fourniret strangled Hellegouarch's wife Farida and bought a castle with the money. The couple buried two of their victims in the castle grounds. Hellegouarch filed a well-documented case against the Fournirets for his wife's murder, but it was ignored.
Fourniret and Olivier met when he was serving a prison sentence for rape and published a notice in a Catholic magazine seeking a pen pal.
During the trial, a psychiatrist summarised their "criminal pact" as: "You kill Michaux [the father of Olivier's two eldest sons] for me and I'll give you virgins."
Fourniret claimed he was so disappointed to learn on the night of his first marriage that his wife was not a virgin that he developed an obsession with female purity. He testified that he checked the virginity of Isabelle Laville (17) the first girl he murdered, "in digital manner".
Fourniret never killed Michaux, but Olivier helped him ensnare girls and participated in their torment. Her lawyer pleaded for leniency, claiming that "without Michel Fourniret, Monique Olivier would not be before this assize court".
When the families of the victims boycotted Olivier's lawyer's closing appeal, they left seven yellow roses on their bench.
Fourniret testified that he forced his last two victims, Mananya Thumpong (13) and Céline Saison (18) to say to him: "Would you make love with me, monsieur?" and "Thank you, monsieur."
Olivier admitted that when she and Fourniret had intimate relations, she repeated the same words to excite him, imitating the role of his young victims.
One of the most terrifying things about the Fourniret case is the gross negligence of the French police and justice system.
Had a 13-year-old girl not escaped from Fourniret five years ago, he would doubtless have continued killing.
Fourniret had a criminal record of 17 sexual assaults before he met Olivier. He was sentenced to five years in prison in 1987, but was released the same year.
Investigators repeatedly closed the cases of young women he had murdered.