On 16 May 1990, 20-year-old British language student Joanna Parrish disappeared from the Burgundy region of France where she was teaching at a local school on a work placement. Days earlier, the Leeds University student from Gloucestershire, England had placed an advert in a local paper offering English language lessons. Her flatmate was able to tell police that on that day Joanna had arranged to meet a man who had responded to her advert asking her to teach his teenage son. She left their flat to meet him but failed to return. The following day, her naked body was found in the Yonne River in Auxerre in Burgundy. Pathologists concluded Joanna had been beaten, raped, and strangled.
In the weeks and months that followed, the Parrish family desperately hunted for information which would lead to finding their daughter’s killer. After witnessing shocking flaws in the investigation from police and officials in France walking through the crime scene and contaminating evidence, DNA evidence being lost and paperwork and files relating to the case going missing, Roger and Pauline Parrish were left devastated as the case turned cold.
When your child is murdered abroad, families can often face a long uphill battle to achieve justice with language barriers, different police policies and local authority laws to grapple with when all they are seeking is the truth and for justice to be achieved.
The case of 22-year-old Lindsay Hawker, a Leeds University graduate and British teacher who was murdered in Japan has highlighted the barriers and heartbreak that can follow when a loved one is murdered abroad. Lindsay was found dead in a sand-filled bathtub on the balcony of 30-year-old Tatsuya Ichihashi’s apartment in Tokyo in March 2007. Ichihashi was a student she was teaching and he immediately went on the run after the murder.
The Hawker family spent two-and-a-half harrowing years trying to track him down and bring him to justice. Ichihashi underwent plastic surgery to change his appearance in desperate attempts to evade the law and responsibility for his actions. Finally caught and arrested in November 2009, on 23 December, he was charged with Lindsay Hawker’s murder. The following year, Tatsuya Ichihashi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
“Our fight for justice for our daughter Lindsay was directed at the capture of Tatsuya Ichihashi. It was a long two years and seven months battle.”
In 2005, 15 years after Joanna Parrish’s murder, the arrest of a suspected serial killer of young girls and women in the Ardennes region of France and his accomplice wife, refocused police attention on the Parrish case. The similarities between the victims of Michel Fourniret and his wife and the murder of Joanna Parrish suggested he may have been responsible.
Fourniret was caught in 2004 after a 13-year-old girl managed to escape his clutches and went to police. After gathering evidence police arrested Michael Fourniret and his wife Monique Oliver a year later under suspicion of being involved in the murder of seven young girls in the French Ardennes region. Fourniret took the girls into forests miles away from houses and any form of help in Ardennes where he would rape them and strangle or stab them to death. He had an obsession with young virgin girls and his wife helped him find them. The pair, who some have compared to British serial killer couple Fred and Rosemary West, had been operating together for 17 years and police fear may have many more victims.
Fourniret had a long history of assaulting women, with is first conviction being in 1967 for assaulting a minor. Just six years later he was convicted of multiple rapes and sent to prison for five years. Oliver was his third wife, his previous two partners leaving him at each of his past convictions. Oliver wrote to him while he was in prison, striking up a friendship with him and discussed his rape fantasies and his interest in girls who were virgins. He was released from prison in 1987 and the pair married, having a young son soon after.
Monique Oliver indicated to police in 2008 that her husband was responsible for the murder of Joanna Parrish. She later retracted her statements, however, leaving police powerless to push forward with new charges against Fourniret. In May 2008, in court at Charleville-Mezieres in Northern France, the then 66-year-old Michel Fourniret was jailed for life for the kidnap, rape, and murder of seven girls aged between 12 and 21. His wife, Monique Oliver, who claimed she was forced into submission by Fourniret, was convicted of one murder and assisting in three others by luring the three girls to her husband for him to kill. She was jailed for 28 years.
Due to similarities in the seven murders he carried out and Joanna Parrish’s murder, Fourniret was always a prime suspect, however, he had continuously denied having any involvement. In an interview with two instructing magistrates in France, Michel Fourniret, the Guardian reports, has now finally admitted he did kill 20-year-old Joanna Parrish in 1990. He has also admitted the murder of 19-year-old Marie-Angele Domece who was mentally handicapped and disappeared on 8 July 1988, two years before Joanna Parrish’s murder. Her body has never been found.
The Parrish family lawyer, Didier Seban, said on 16 February 2018, “He made detailed and repeated confessions. He clearly recognises, and this several times over, having killed Joanna Parrish and Marie-Angele Domece.” After 28 years it is now hoped with Michel Fourniret’s confession charges of murder can be brought against him for the brutal murder of Joanna Parrish. Finally, this young girl and her family might get the justice they deserve. Roger Parrish has said, “‘If we can get that kind of certainty it would be a huge relief.”