'World at her feet': British student murdered in 1990 remembered at France trial

'World at her feet': British student murdered in 1990 remembered at France trial

Monique Olivier barely reacted as she listened to family members' testimony
Monique Olivier barely reacted as she listened to family members' testimony

PARIS - Family members of a British student murdered in France in 1990 gave emotional testimony to a French court Monday in the trial of the widow of serial killer Michel Fourniret, who kidnapped, raped and murdered the 20-year-old.

Monique Olivier is currently standing trial in Paris accused of involvement in the murders by Fourniret of two young women, including the British student Joanna Parrish, and a nine-year-old girl.

After Fourniret himself died in 2021 aged 79 before he could be brought to trial for the three killings, Olivier is the families' only link to the truth of what happened to their loved ones.

"Joanna's story ended in May 1990. The bright, beautiful and talented 20-year-old with the world at her feet was never able to have the life she wanted or deserved," her father Roger told the court.

Wearing a tan jacket and roll neck sweater, the 80-year-old occasionally paused to hold back tears, taking sips of water before going on in a steady voice.

"There can be no greater tragedy than losing a child... when those circumstances are a deliberate act of murder, it further adds to the disbelief, anger, trauma and sadness," he said.

Roger Parrish took aim at "narcissistic psychopath" Fourniret and "his female partner" Olivier, who prosecutors and plaintiffs argue was crucial to gaining the trust of victims including Joanna.

- 'Funny, kind, many friends' -

Olivier, now aged 79 and serving a life sentence issued in 2008, is on trial for her part in the abduction, rape and murder of Joanna in 1990 and 18-year-old Marie-Angele Domece in 1988.

Fourniret himself said of Domece and Parrish in 2018 that "I am the only one responsible for their fates... If those people had not crossed my path, they would still be alive".

Olivier is also charged with complicity in the disappearance of nine-year-old Estelle Mouzin in 2003, whose body has never been found two decades on despite intensive searches.

Domece's remains have also never been found, while Parrish's naked body was recovered from the Yonne river in the French department of the same name.

Domece and Parrish both disappeared from Auxerre in central France, where the British girl had been working as a teaching assistant while studying French at the University of Leeds.

Fourniret is believed to have answered a classified ad Joanna had posted in a local newspaper offering English lessons -- hoping to earn extra money to visit her boyfriend in then-Czechoslovakia.

Roger Parrish told the court he was "absolutely sure" his daughter would not have got into a car alone with a strange man, bolstering his belief in Olivier's role in the crime.

Joanna's boyfriend at the time, Patrick Proctor, now 55, told the court in French that she had been "a funny, kind young woman with many friends".

"Even 33 years on, she's still in my thoughts," he said.

- 'Fighting for too long' -

Facing a further life sentence if convicted, Olivier appeared attentive but unmoved by the testimony as she sat behind glass screens in the dock.

She draped a black coat over her shoulders and slipped a pair of glasses from a case embroidered with flowers as the hearing began, uttering just a few words in a near-whisper in response to a procedural question from judge Didier Safar.

Olivier said last week that she admitted to "all the facts" laid against her.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs skirmished with the judge as Monday's hearing began, saying they should be able to question Olivier in reaction to the plaintiffs' statements.

The court should not "steal this trial from the plaintiffs", lawyer Didier Seban said. "We've been fighting for justice for too long for this court not to render it in exemplary fashion."

But the judge ultimately said that Olivier could not be questioned repeatedly outside the three half-days already set aside.

The cases have been dogged for decades by slip-ups and delays in the justice system that plaintiffs blame for the failure to bring Fourniret to trial.

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