CHARLEVILLE-MEZIERES, France – A French court on Wednesday convicted Michel Fourniret of killing seven girls and young women and sentenced him to life in prison — and gave his wife a life term for helping him in some of the murders.
Fourniret, 66, was given the maximum sentence by the jury in Charleville-Mezieres in northeast France. In a particularly severe sentence for a French court, he cannot be considered for parole before serving 30 years behind bars.
His wife, Monique Olivier, 59, was convicted of complicity in four of the murders and sentenced to life in prison. She must serve at least 28 years before she can be considered for early release.
The court ordered them put on public lists of sex offenders.
The verdict closes a two-month trial that riveted France and nearby Belgium, where one of the victims was killed.
The young women, aged 12 to 21, were strangled, shot or stabbed with a screwdriver between 1987 and 2001 to feed what prosecutors called Fourniret's obsession for virgins.
The lead prosecutor called Olivier "a witch," while Fourniret's court-appointed defense lawyer described him as "indefensible." Fourniret refused counsel and remained silent through most of the proceedings.
Lawyers for the couple had said they did not plan to appeal in the event of a conviction. Prosecutors contend that Olivier helped Fourniret track down virgins to feed his morbid fantasies.
Belgian police detained Fourniret in June 2003 after his bungled kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl. The girl gave authorities his license plate number after she managed to unbind her hands and escape from the back of Fourniret's van.
Belgium extradited wife Olivier to France in 2005, and Fourniret in 2006. Judicial officials in both countries decided the case should be tried in France because six of the victims were French citizens.
Investigators suspect Fourniret may also have been involved in several other murders.
The Fourniret case has drawn comparisons with that of Belgium's notorious pedophile Marc Dutroux, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for a series of child kidnappings, rapes and murders.