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Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 3 - 8
Date of murders: 1980 - 1987
Date of arrest: August 9, 1988
Date of birth: November 18, 1946
Victims profile: Patrick Dubois, 19 / Serge Havet, 20 / Manuel Carvalho, 19 / Pascal Sergent, 19 / Olivier Donner, 20 / Patrice Denis, 20 / Patrick Gache, 18 / Trevor O'Keefe, 20
Method of murder: Ligature strangulation
Location: Marne department, France
Status: Committed suicide in prison by severing an artery with a razor blade on October 14, 2003

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Pierre Chanal (Saint-╔tienne, Loire, 18 November 1946 ľ Reims, 15 October 2003) was a French soldier and suspected serial killer. He was convicted of the rape and kidnapping of a young Hungarian man (Falvay, Balßzs) whom he picked up hitch-hiking in 1988. He received a 10-year sentence for the attack, and was released in 1995 on probation.

He was accused of murdering three of eight young men who disappeared in northeastern France between 1980 and 1987. One of his alleged victims was Irishman Trevor O'Keeffe. Chanal committed suicide in prison in 2003 while on trial.


Pierre Chanal

A French commando-trained army veteran and fitness fanatic suspected of being a sadistic serial killer may never face trial because interminable delays in the case.

The investigators say what Pierre Chanal, 52 -- described by comrades as "an archetypal warrior and man of steel" -- killed 8 young womenin the 80s. The 8 victims vanished in or near an area in the Marne region, north-east of Paris, known as the "triangle of death". Seven of the bodies have never been found. Most of the men were army conscripts from the Mourmelon camp where Chanal served. Taciturn military authorities assumed the men were deserters and dismissed any talks of a serial killer in their ranks.

Chanal became a career soldier as soon as he was old enough to enlist, escaping from a desperately poor family of 16 children and a violent, alcoholic father. A born leader, he rose steadily through the ranks to become the senior warrant officer in the illustrious 4th Dragoons regiment, where his toughness and dedication to duty earned him high praise. A typical man's man, Chanal volunteered for service with the French military contingent deployed in Beirut at the height of Lebanon's bloody civil war.

Discribed as a "block of marble" by an investigating officer, Chanal's weakness fro raping and torturing young men was uncovered in 1988 when a police patrol -- investigating the sight of a Volkswagen camper van on an isolated country road -- found him assaulting the terrified Hungarian hitchhikker he picked up near the Mourmelon camp who he had trussed up in a parachute harness while a video camera recorded the assault.

In true military fashion Chanal provided only his name, rank and service number to the arresting officers. In his cell, he would rise at dawn every morning for a frenetic bout of exercises, then spend hours in silence, staring intently at the walls. "He acted like he was a prisoner of war," said one police officer.

The murder investigation began when a pair of men's underpants labelled "Made in Britain" were discovered in Chanal's van. Police believed that they had belonged to Trevor O'Keefe, a 20-year-old Irishman who vanished two years earlier during a walking tour that took him through the Marne region. His naked body was eventually found dumped in a wood. He had been savagely beaten, then strangled with a cord knotted in a fashion taught in the French commando forces.

Police discovered that Chanal had purchased his video camera only a few days before the first of the disappearances happened eight years earlier. Police also established that nobody had been reported missing in the region while Chanal was in Lebanon. The attack on the Hungarian - which investigators said they feared would have ended in murder had the assault not been interrupted - took place after Chanal had been transferred to a new post but while he was still returning frequently to the area to jump with a local parachute club.

He was formally placed under investigation in connection with the disappearances while he was in prison for raping and torturing the hitchhikker. With time off for good behaviour Chanal was due for release in 1994, but was kept in detention after the O'Keefe case was added to his dossier. He was released from jail in June 1995, to live at a sister's home near Lyons under strict judicial control.

A year later, fresh forensic-science tests on the camper van discovered traces of human hairs, and subsequent DNA analysis indicated the strong probability that they came from the last two of the conscripts to disappear. By then, investigators had turned to psychiatrists to find cracks in Chanal's steely resolve. With the help of the FBI's behavioural science unit, they arrived at the conclusion that they were dealing with a truly chilling personality. The reports described Chanal as "both obsessive and sadistic - characterised by aberrant sexual conduct which leads him to seek pleasure by inflicting humiliation and suffering on others". Nevertheless, with scant genetic evidence and a psychological profile police will be hard-pressed to make a case against this warring serial killer.


Pierre Chanal : The Military Superman

By Maria Olsen -

May 20, 2009

This case echoes that of Private Edward Leonski, the "Brownout Murderer", although here the victims were male instead of female. One major point of similarity between Chanal and Leonski, however, is that both of these killers were soldiers at the time they perpetrated their crimes.

Career soldier and commanding officer Pierre Chanal was stationed in his native France, though, while Leonski, an American, terrorized Melbourne, Australia. They also operated in different eras as Chanal's killing spree occurred during the years 1980 through 1988 while Leonski was active during World War II. But perhaps it was the fact that they were both in uniform and in positions of authority that deluded them into thinking that they could do anything they wanted to.

Chanal's bloody escapades created the so-called Triangle of Death in the Ardennes region close to Mourmelon, the French military base at which he was stationed as an adjutant during the years he abducted, raped and murdered his victims. Similar to the Bermuda Triangle in which people would disappear without trace, young men would enter the Triangle of Death and, in at least eight cases, they were never seen again.

Chanal's modus operandi was to lure young men to take a ride with him in his VW Combi Van and then to overpower them, sodomize them and strangle them. He also enjoyed video taping his victims in the throws of their agony. Chanel's plans went awry in 1988, however, when he was stopped at a routine checkpoint near Macon and the bound and tortured Hungarian hitchhiker Palazs Falvay was discovered in the back of the van.

Chanal was tried and convicted for the kidnapping and rape of Falvay and received a ten year jail sentence. He was released on probation during 1995, but, as the police had since linked him to the string of disappearances that had taken place in Mourmelon almost a decade earlier, he was then accused of the murder of Irishman Trevor O'Keefe and two young Frenchmen. During the investigation the local police found the military superman a hard nut to crack and commissioned the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit to analyze their suspect. The FBI's findings were that Chanel was "both obsessive and sadistic" and "characterized by aberrant sexual conduct which leads him to seek pleasure by inflicting humiliation and suffering on others", in other words, exactly the kind of person the police was looking for.

Justice was never to be served, however, as sometime in the night following the first day of his trial, which commenced in 2003, Chanal committed suicide in prison by severing an artery with a razor blade. It is interesting to note the length of time it took before Chanal was finally put on trial for the three murders - about eight years - and some say that the delay was due to the police and the military trying to protect one of its own. Whatever the reason, on January 26th 2005, in a surprise move and setting a somewhat dangerous precedent as Chanal was charged with only three murders, the Court of Bankruptcy of Paris awarded 36,000 Euros to each of the eight families as compensation for the loss of their loved ones.

The money was, no doubt, appreciated but everyone knew that it could never bring the boys back.


O'Keefe accused man is found dead

A former French soldier suspected of killing three young men in the 1980s committed suicide in hospital early today.

The 56-year-old former commando was on trial for the murder of Irish hitch-hiker Trevor O'Keefe, who was found battered and strangled in a shallow grave in August 1987.

Police say Mr Chanal appears to have used a razor blade to sever an artery in his leg, despite being under round-the-clock guard. The accused man, who tried to kill himself earlier this year, had been on hunger strike since July.

Mr Chanal was accused of murdering three of eight young men who disappeared between 1980 and 1987 during a crime spree that terrified a small corner of northeastern France.

His trial was postponed after he tried to kill himself in May.

Seven of the men were army conscripts based in camps where he served at the time, and almost all vanished in a section of the Marne region, northeast of Paris, between three military garrisons, which became known as 'the triangle of death'.

Mr Chanal, who denied the murder charges, had already served a jail sentence for the rape and kidnapping of a young Hungarian man he picked up hitch-hiking in 1988. He received a ten year sentence for the attack, and was released in 1995 on probation.


Suicide of serial murder suspect

15 October, 2003

A French army veteran accused of murdering three young men in the 1980s has killed himself hours after the start of his trial.

Pierre Chanal, 57, slashed the main artery in his left leg with a razorblade.

Mr Chanal had been on hunger strike to protest his innocence and refused to attend the trial in the northern city of Reims. He killed himself in the hospital where he was being treated.

He was originally suspected in the murders of eight men who disappeared in the north-eastern Marne region between 1980 and 1987, seven of them army conscripts.

The three murder charges came after advances in DNA technology allowed hairs found in Mr Chanal's van in 1988 to be linked to three of the missing men.

Mr Chanal, who denied the allegations, had already served 10 years in prison after being caught assaulting a young Hungarian man in his camper van in 1988.


The trial opened on Tuesday, with Mr Chanal accused of killing conscripts Patrice Denis and Patrick Gache, as well as Irish hitch-hiker Trevor O'Keefe.

The conscripts disappeared from Mourmelon army camp in 1985 and 1987 respectively, while O'Keefe was found strangled in a shallow grave, also in 1987.

But Mr Chanal had said he would not be judged for something he had not done. His lawyer said he was also too weak after three months on hunger strike to attend.

Mr Chanal had warned some time ago that he would rather kill himself than face life imprisonment.

Police are investigating how he managed to obtain the razorblade, despite the presence of two guards outside his room and regular checks by hospital staff.

Feigned sleep

Justice Minister Dominique Perben said his room had been carefully searched on Tuesday evening and someone could have deliberately passed it to him.

"The razorblade didn't arrive mysteriously," he told French radio. "Either there was an oversight or the razorblade was slipped in by someone in the last hours before his death."

He added that Mr Chanal had pretended to be asleep, even after having cut open his artery.

The families of all the victims, who had gathered at Reims in the hoping of finding out the truth, were devastated by what had happened.

"There'll be no justice for our son and that's my biggest regret," said Roger Denis, father of Patrice.

But Mr Chanal's sister Simone said her brother had been the victim of the justice system, which had driven him to his death.



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