A serial killer suspected in some of France’s oldest unsolved cases has been found dead after 35 years on the run as police were closing in on his identity.
- The man has been linked to four murders and six rapes and is the suspect in another murder
- The first known victim was an 8-year-old girl who survived
- His wife reported him missing after investigators sent him a summons
For several decades, authorities have been investigating several rapes and murders that happened between 1986 and 1994.
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The man, nicknamed Le Grêlé (pockmarked), was never apprehended.
He was wanted for a list of crimes including rape of minors, murder, attempted murder, armed robbery and kidnapping of minors, Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said in a statement late on Thursday.
The man, a former gendarme and police officer identified as Francois Vérove, committed suicide in a rented apartment, leaving a written confession, a source close to the case told AFP.
An 8-year-old girl was the first known victim.
She was approached in the elevator of her building on April 8, 1986, by a man who identified himself as a police officer, then took her to the basement and raped and strangled her.
The girl, Sarah, lost consciousness but did not die.
A month later, an 11-year-old girl named Cecile was raped and killed in the basement of her Paris apartment building.
Her half-brother crossed paths with the suspect and described him to investigators, allowing production of a police sketch that later hung in many police stations around France.
But police had no leads, so the investigation was closed in 1992.
In 1996, a new judge reopened the case and ordered a genetic analysis of the evidence, which made it possible to get the suspect’s DNA.
The same genetic profile was found in several other cases:
- The killing of a 21-year-old German au pair in 1987, and her employer.
- The rape of a 14-year-old girl in 1987 in Paris.
- The kidnapping and rape of an 11-year-old girl in a forest in Mitry, in the eastern suburbs of Paris, in 1994.
- The killing of a 19-year-old woman in 1994 in another forest.
Investigators were closing in
Over the years, investigators came to believe that the suspect may have been part of the Gendarmerie — armed forces in charge of internal security — at the time of the crimes, and established a DNA profile of him.
In recent months, an investigating magistrate had begun questioning around 750 gendarmes who had been deployed in the Paris region at the time.
One of them was Vérove, a 59-year-old man living in the south of France, who was sent a summons on September 24 but then was reported missing by his wife three days later.
He was found dead on Wednesday in Grau-du-Roi, a fishing village on the Mediterranean coast, a prosecutors statement said.
He was a former gendarme, who later became a police officer and then retired, according to the statement.
Police took a DNA sample from the body and found that it matched the genetic profile found at several of the crime scenes.
According to local media, Vérove mentioned “past impulses” in a letter he left behind, which he had since brought “under control”, and said he had committed no crimes after 1997.
The murder confession contained no specifics, they said.
In 1986, police had published a police sketch based on witness statements that showed a man of around 25 years old, six feet tall with light-brown hair, and with visible traces of acne on his face.
According to the Parisien newspaper, Vérove is also the suspect in another murder near Paris, of 19-year-old Karine Leroy, in 1994 in the city of Meaux.
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