The Disturbing Way France's Most Notorious Serial Killer Met His Wife

You know if you've been nicknamed the "Ogre of the Ardenness" — or ogre of anything for that matter — your life took a wrong turn somewhere. This is especially the case if the title goes hand-in-hand with "virgin-hunting" of the murderous variety, numerous killings and rapes, and a wife-slash-accomplice dubbed your "bloody muse," as The Guardian outlines. It's all very baroque, macabre, and other French words suitable to an over-the-top 19th-century noir thriller featuring literal blood baths. But because these two people — yes, they're real people — schemed, plotted, and hunted across France, such words are at least morbidly appropriate.

Michel Fourniret (the ogre) and his wife Monique Olivier were a husband-and-wife kidnapper-and-slasher duo who operated across the French countryside from the 1980s all the way to 2003. To say that they were supremely disturbed, grotesque perversions of humankind would be a gross understatement. Olivier selected targets for Fourniret to rape and murder and lured them to various locations. Olivier watched Fourniret perform his acts amidst the screams of their victims, and then the two would reenact events. Fourniret was obsessed with virginity as a "symbol" because he discovered that his first sexual partner wasn't a virgin, which he blames for making him lose his mind. In court, Fourniret gave a speech delivered in alexandrine French couplets, a type of poetic meter containing lines of 12 syllables. And how did such a perfectly matched couple fall into each other's monstrous embrace? They began as pen pals.

The Ogre of the Ardennes

As France24 explains — and bear with us, because this gets worse – Michel Fourniret was married twice before meeting his perfect bride. Born in 1942, he apparently loved chess, literature, and lived in "a sprawling chateau," all of which is fantastic if not for all the remorseless murder. While in prison for sexual assault in the 1980s, Fourniret put out an ad looking for a pen pal, per The Guardian. Monique Olivier replied, and plotted with Fourniret to murder her husband in exchange for helping to "find him virgins." She waited for him on his release day in 1987, and the two set out on their 15-year-long serial killing road trip, along the way becoming what criminal prosecution would describe as the "devil with two faces." Incidentally, Fourniret never killed Olivier's previous husband, presumably because he didn't meet the virgin woman requirement.

France24 states that Fourniret — who fits the textbook definition of a serial killer — felt compelled to kill twice a year. While in jail he befriended a bank robber, who apparently told him the location of a stash of gold buried in a graveyard, which sounds ridiculous but is true. Fourniret used this money to purchase property and fund his and Olivier's ventures. Once Olivier selected a victim and lured her to the designated location, they'd tie the woman up,used and Olivier would — apologies — check the woman's hymen to determine whether or not she was actually a virgin. 

Finally apprehended and sentenced

France24 says that Michel Fourniret confessed to 11 murders overall. The Guardian has details about some of the victims, including the first victim, 17-year-old Isabelle Laville. At that point, Fourniret's wife Monique Olivier gave directions to a hitchhiker and then offered to give that person a ride. Olivier would then pick up Fourniret, who was pretending to be another hitchhiker, and Fourniret would carry out his sick compulsions. They dumped their first victim, Laville, into a well. Fourniret and Olivier continued murdering while Olivier was pregnant, using the pregnancy as a way to garner sympathy and lure another victim to their van. That victim was 13. The next victim was 20 and lived in a convent; Fourniret said she looked like Mary, the mother of Jesus. The murders themselves involved strangling, shooting, or stabbing with a screwdriver.

Per The Guardian, Fourniret and Olivier were finally caught when their final victim, another 13-year-old, chewed through her restraints and escaped. During their trial, the defense tried to paint Olivier as just another victim, but to no avail. Fourniret and Olivier were convicted and sentenced in 2008. By then their son was about 20 years old. The Brussels Times reports he "disowned" them when he found out who they really were. ABC News says that Fourniret died in a prison hospital in 2021 after falling into a coma related to heart and respiratory issues. RFI says that Olivier is serving a life sentence without parole. Additionally, police are still searching for a victim's body, 9-year-old Estelle Mouzin. They said that Fourniret's death represented the loss of an "asset" to the case.