Boyfriend of Ogre of Ardennes victim speaks for the first time

Boyfriend of Ogre of Ardennes victim Joanna Parrish speaks for the first time of their relationship as he tells court his horror at learning what the killer did to the Brit during 1990 rape and murder

  • Patrick Proctor and Joanne Parrish met at Leeds University and planned to marry

He was, in a lawyer’s words, ‘the first great love’ of Joanna Parrish’s life. After graduating they had been planning to marry.

Today, however, Patrick Proctor told a Paris court how his dream of settling down with the ‘intelligent, cool, mischievous’ girl he met at Leeds University was destroyed, 33 years ago, when she kept a rendezvous with France’s most notorious serial killing couple.

Ironically, it was the young lovers’ desire to snatch a few days together – while Joanna was on a teaching assignment in the Burgundy region and Mr Proctor was studying Czechoslovakia – that led the 21-year-old student into their clutches.

Fiercely independent, and not wishing to ask her parents for money for the travel fare to Prague, Joanna offered private English lessons in Auxerre, where was teaching on secondment at a high school.

The advert she placed in a local paper, containing her phone number, was seen by Michel Fourniret, who called her saying he was looking for a tutor for his son, and arranged to meet her in the city centre.

Joanna Parrish with her fiance, Patrick Proctor (left) at Leeds University in 1987

Monique Olivier is charged with aiding and abetting gruesome attacks by her late husband, Michel Fourniret

Joanna Parrish, 20, was killed by Fourninet. Her naked body was found in the Yonne river near Auxerre in central France

Self-confessed serial killer Michel Fourniret pictured arriving at court in a police car, on March 28, 2008 

Had the so-called Ogre of the Ardennes turned up alone, that May evening in 1990, Mr Proctor told the court, she would not have climbed into his van.

But Fourniret’s wife, Monique Olivier, was with him, and ‘with a woman there, there would have been more trust,’ he said.

The following day, Joanna’s naked body was found in the River Yonne, a few miles from Auxerre. She had been brutally beaten, drugged, raped and strangled with cord or flex.

Yesterday, Olivier listened impassively from the dock as Mr Proctor, now 55 and living in Hertfordshire, stood just a few from her and said: ‘It’s barely believable that a human being could do that to somebody else.’

For 30 years, he had never spoken of his relationship with Joanna.

Standing before the judge in a suit, white shirt and burgundy tie, however, and speaking in French, he recalled how they moved into shared digs together during their second year at university, and how he twice visited her when she began her year in Auxerre.

Even when he went to study in Czechoslovakia, where communication was then difficult, they stayed in close touch by letter and his weekly phone-calls to the school where Joanna taught.

‘You were the great love of Joanna’s life, everybody says that. For you, it was your first love,’ remarked the Parrish family lawyer, Didier Seban.

‘It was to her great happiness that she was coming to see you, wasn’t it?

‘Oui,’ said Mr Proctor balefully.

Fourniret is described as one of France’s worst serial killers

Had they planned to marry, the lawyer asked him ‘Yes, we spoke of that. We were very young but that was part of our future.’

Everything had changed when he received an urgent call from his mother in England, saying he must return home. Joanna’s death affected him so profoundly that his studies were disrupted for two years afterwards.

Earlier, Joanna’s father, Roger Parrish, now 80, told the court how he and his then wife, Pauline Murrell, had been introduced to Mr Proctor.

‘We were very happy for her, and for them both. They seemed to well suited to each other and we looked forward to welcoming him as part of our family,’ he said.

Roger Parrish (left) said his ‘perfect family’ had been forever destroyed when his daughter was murdered

However, he said, his ‘perfect family’ had been forever destroyed when his daughter was murdered, weeks before they celebrated her 21st birthday.

‘Never ending devastation doesn’t come close to describing the effect Joanna’s murder had on our family,’ he said, his voice frequently breaking as he spoke in memory of her.

Joanna had been a ‘happy, loveable and steadfast’ child ‘who made friends easily’. At high school she had been appointed deputy head girl. A brilliant linguist, she was set to gain a top degree at university.

Her love of France had begun with holidays and exchange visits, Mr Parrish said, and grew after she moved to Auxerre. But ‘her story ended in May, 1990’, he said.

‘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. The world was robbed of an exceptional woman, and we were robbed of a sister, daughter, cousin and niece.

‘Her life was cruelly ended by a narcissistic psychopath and his female partner who was an active participant in all of his crimes.’

After he spoke, photographs of Joanna were projected onto a screen mounted in the courtroom.

Here she was, aged three or four, smiling with her brother Barney, three years younger, on a beach holiday in the West Country. There she was, looking stunning in a blue gown at the university ball.

Tributes from her university friends, read to the court, described a young woman with ‘twinkling eyes’ and ‘amazing smile’, zestful and fun-loving, and always ready to help others.

Monique Olivier was described in 2008 by a judge as a ‘devil with two faces’ and her husband’s ‘bloody muse’

The Parrish family have previously voiced disgust at the many mistakes and apparent indifference show by the French police and judiciary during the protracted investigation.

On Monday, Joanna’s father lamented the ‘enormously long time’ it had taken to bring the case.

Frustrated about the lack of progress in the investigation, he said he and his ex-wife had travelled to France to conduct their own inquiries for seven or eight years after the murder.

READ MORE: ‘Ogre of the Ardennes’ serial killer’s wife admits to ‘all the facts’ as her trial for aiding three murders continues in France

Most of the information they obtained came not from the police but journalists, he said. It was a British reporter who informed him of Fourniret’s arrest for a string of sex murders, and his suspected involvement in Joanna’s death, in 2003.

Mr Parrish expressed ‘regret’, though not surprise, that Fourniret had died in jail during the protracted delay in bringing him to trial, leaving 75-year-old Olivier – who admits being complicit but claims she acted under his influence – to face the court alone.

However, the most stinging criticism of the French authorities came from his sister, Joanna’s aunt Pauline Harris, who had travelled from Derbyshire, and also gave a moving testimony.

Since Joanna had been tricked into accepting a lift by Olivier, and that she had first confessed to her part in the murder to prosecutors 16 years ago, Mrs Harris asked why charges had not been brought sooner.

‘We can’t redo past mistakes and omissions in the investigation. But we hope this this will help the families of future victims and possible prevent the deaths of other young girls,’ she said.

Judge Didier Safar commended Mr Parish and Mrs Murrell, who chose not to speak, for their ‘tenacious’ pursuit of the truth.

Without it, he said pointedly, this case – scheduled to end on December 15 – would never have come before the court.

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