Widow of 'Beast of Ardennes' guilty of involvement in murder of British student

By Isaac M December 20, 2023

A woman has been found guilty of involvement in the murders of three people, including a British student, by a man dubbed the ‘Beast of the Ardennes’.

Monique Olivier, who was already serving a life prison sentence for her part in other murders, was tried 33 years after Joanna Parrish was killed in the French city of Auxerre.

Olivier was found guilty of complicity in her murder, as well as those of Marie-Angele Domece in 1988 and Estelle Mouzin in 2003.

She has now been handed a second life sentence, with a minimum prison term of 20 years.

Her head remained bowed, with her eyes almost completely closed, throughout the sentencing – in which the gruesome details about the murders were read out.

Speaking after the hearing, Joanna’s father, Roger Parrish, said his family were “satisfied” that the court had “recognised Monique Olivier’s part in the murder of our daughter and sister”.

“There’s never been any doubt in our minds at all that she was equally responsible for the murder of Joanna and the other completely innocent victims,” he said.

Joanna Parrish
Joanna Parrish was raped, beaten and strangled

“From the very first moment that a victim was identified, she knew exactly what would happen to them, and not only did she do nothing to help them, but she actively encouraged and participated.

“Her presence alone would have gained the confidence of all the victims, who would never have believed a woman could be a part of such an appalling and depraved act.

“Finally, we now hope after this last obstacle in our struggle to gain an element of justice for Joanna has been overcome, we can remember our daughter and sister with a smile on our faces, which is how of course her many friends remember her.”

Asked later by Sky News later how he felt about the verdict, he said: “I think relief, probably.

“We always wanted to achieve some sense of justice for our daughter because she deserved, believe me, she really deserved it.

“She deserved a long, happy, and fulfilled life, which I’m sure she would have had, had she not had the desperate, desperate misfortune to come across a couple like them.

“So we did it to bring an element of justice for Jo.”

‘The Beast of the Ardennes’

Joanna, a 20-year-old university student from Gloucestershire, was working in France as part of her university course.

She was murdered by Olivier’s husband, Michel Fourniret, in May 1990.

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‘She deserved a long, happy life’

Joanna had placed an advert in a paper offering English lessons and had been contacted by Fourniret, who arranged to meet her and claimed he wanted to organise lessons for his son.

Her body was found in the River Yonne and a post-mortem showed that Joanna had been raped, beaten and strangled.

Fourniret is one of the most notorious serial killers in France’s history.

He was convicted of killing eight women, but died in 2021 before he could be tried for the murders of Joanna, as well as Marie-Angele Domece, 18, and Estelle Mouzin, 9.

He may have killed other victims, who have not yet been identified.

Olivier was his accomplice throughout.

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The pair first got to know each other as pen-pals in 1984, when Fourniret was in prison for sexually assaulting five young girls.

In letters that were never checked by prison authorities, he told Olivier of his fantasies of raping and murdering young girls.

Olivier, far from being appalled, said that she would help him fulfil those dreams as long as Fourniret, in turn, murdered her husband.

In the end, her first husband, Andre Michaux, survived, although his property was burnt down.

But Fourniret’s side of the bargain was to be fulfilled in a truly horrific way.

** FILE ** Michel Fourniret arrives at Court in Dinant, Belgium, in this 2004 file photo. Michel Fourniret, self-confessed serial killer who is suspected of murdering 19 people, goes on trial Thursday March 27, 2008 with wife Monique Olivier, accused of helping her husband lure in his prey. (AP Photo/Bruno Arnold, ASAP pictures, File)
Serial killer, Michel Fourniret

Repeatedly, Olivier acted as a lure – tricking girls and young women into entering a vehicle, thinking they were safe.

Instead, Fourniret was waiting inside, ready to assault and then kill his victims.

Couple used baby son to reassure victims

Olivier and Fourniret had a son, called Selim.

Olivier used her pregnancy to further reassure victims and then, after his birth, even exploited her baby.

On one notorious occasion, she asked a 12-year-old girl, Elisabeth Brichet, for help with her crying baby, pleading for her to come to the van and give directions to a doctor.

A few minutes later, Olivier sat with her child in the front seat of their van while, behind them, Fourniret was brutally attacking Elisabeth before later killing her.

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Parents’ 33-year wait for justice

In court, she gave evidence for day after day, standing in a dock that was surrounded by tall glass.

Watched by the families of all three victims, Olivier admitted that what she had done had been “monstrous” but said she had been intimidated by Fourniret, and scared of defying him.

The prosecution, as at her previous trials, admitted her involvement in the murders but claimed that she had, in fact, been a willing participant and had repeatedly passed over chances to help victims escape.

‘I couldn’t cry for six months’

Olivier, now 75 years old, stood up and spoke with a clear, conversational tone, her voice occasionally slowing and softening.

She rarely showed any emotion, even when admitting her role in the deaths.

She said Joanna didn’t deserve to die and that she was “a beautiful girl.”

But she also clashed angrily with her own son when he gave evidence against her.

She mocked the disguise he wore on a video link and he responded by saying: “Now you see the real Monique Olivier”.

Joanna Parrish's parents, Pauline and Roger
Joanna Parrish’s parents, Pauline and Roger

Joanna’s murder left her parents devastated.

Her mother Pauline Murrell told Sky News: “They said she was found in the water, and I was staring out of a window and I simply couldn’t take it in. I couldn’t cry for six months.

“Then I got the post-mortem report and I opened it on a Sunday morning, and I wasn’t able to get out of bed.”

Roger Parrish said: “She deserved a long and happy, fulfilled life. She worked hard and she deserved it. She was helpful, part of the community. People still remember her.

“Jo was a kind person but she was also bright and smart. She was not likely to have trusted a man who was by himself.

“When we found out that there was a female accomplice, I remember thinking that we had never thought of that. Why would we have done? But right from that moment, I thought, ‘this is it – this is the person’.”


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