French investigators to reopen case of British student killed in 1990
Joanna Parrish, whose dead body was found by a fisherman in Auxerre, France in 1990. She is pictured with her brother Barney.
Photograph: Barry Batchelor
French investigators are to reopen an inquiry into the unsolved murder of a British student 22 years ago after the discovery of new evidence.
The body of Joanna Parrish 20, a Leeds University language student, was found in the river at Auxerre in Burgundy in 1990. She was abducted after placing an advertisement in a local newspaper offering English lessons, and had been raped, beaten and strangled.
Parrish’s parents accused French police of bungling the case and losing vital evidence. Her father, Roger Parrish, and his former wife Pauline believed that serial killer Michel Fourniret, a 69-year-old former forest ranger who was convicted of the murder and rape of seven girls and young women in France and Belgium in 2008, was responsible for their daughter’s death.
Fourniret’s wife, Monique Olivier, twice told investigators he had killed Parrish, but the murderer, serving life imprisonment, has always denied any involvement in her death. Olivier, who had helped her husband lure his victims and was also given a life sentence for complicity in murder, later retracted her claims.
On 16 May 1990, Parrish disappeared after going to the centre of Auxerre to meet a man who had phoned in answer to her advertisement, saying he wanted her to teach his son English. She was never seen alive again. The following day her naked body was found in the River Yonne, three miles outside the town.
Joanna’s parents, who had spent more than two decades battling to discover who killed their daughter, vowed not to give up until the murderer was identified. They were devastated when French judges closed the case in 2010, saying there was “no case to answer” against Fourniret, who was nicknamed The Beast of Ardennes.
On Tuesday it was announced that the Paris court of appeal had overturned this decision and ordered investigative judges to “make new inquiries in all directions … including a new line of inquiry that has just been discovered”.
Didier Seban, the Parrish family lawyer, said the new evidence concerned “a man with a serious criminal record” whose name had been given to the police. “Joanna’s parents, who have often had the impression of being abandoned by the French justice system, have renewed hope of finally seeing a result to the inquiry,” Mr Seban told AFP.
The lawyer said investigators had DNA evidence that could produce new leads.
At Fourniret’s trial in 2008, Roger Parrish, 68, a retired civil servant, said his family had been “living a nightmare”.
“But we will find the answer and will not abandon our fight for the truth … All we want to know is who killed our daughter,” he told French journalists.
I hope that this family finally gets some closure. With DNA there is a good chance that they will.