lifted on links in infamous French serial killer cases
- Quiet and bespectacled, Christian Ranucci was a passive young man,
even on the day of his execution.
the pre-dawn hours of July 28, 1976, as a mob of of reporters and
photographers waited outside, the 22-year-old was woken at his cell
in Marseilles Les Baumettes Prison.
Refusing the final rituals - the glass of rum, the offer of a priest
and a last cigarette - the young man went to the guillotine with a
lamb-like acquiescence. His final words to his lawyer were: "Clear
Ranucci was beheaded. And for a brief while, the tabloids exulted
that punishment had been exacted for the death of Maria-Dolores
Rambla, an 8-year-old girl who had been abducted from a Marseilles
housing estate in June 1974. Her body, stabbed 15 times and bashed
with rocks, was found dumped in a creek.
little by little, the worm of doubt worked its way into the
certainty that Ranucci was guilty. A crusading writer, Gilles
Perrault, dug out a mass of flaws about Ranucci's interrogation,
found gaps or anomalies in the evidence against him and in the
conduct of the trial. Perrault's best-selling book, Le Pull-over
Rouge was turned into a film of the same name, and they helped to
destroy the death penalty in France.
two more men were guillotined before President Francois Mitterrand
scrapped capital punishment in September 1981 in one of his first
acts in office.
Today, nearly 30 years after Ranucci made his walk to the
guillotine, the controversy has stirred anew.
the astonishing implication is that Rambla's murderer is a man now
facing trial for one of Europe's most notorious strings of killings.
only that: he coolly attended Ranucci's trial, and watched as the
young man was convicted and sentenced to death.
new lead comes from Belgian police who are probing the past of
Michel Fourniret, a woodcutter from Belgium's Ardennes region.
Fourniret, 63, is being held in France on charges of killing seven
girls and raping or attempting to rape three others, in a long trail
of horror on both sides of the border.
Belgian investigators believe Fourniret went on holiday in the
Marseilles region every year from 1970 to 1974 - the year that
Rambla was killed. He also had a Peugeot 304 - a car almost
identical to Ranucci's Peugeot 304.
rear of both vehicles is very similar to the Simca 1100, the model
of car implicated by two witnesses who said that the driver of this
vehicle, on the day of Maria-Dolores's abduction, tried to coax
children to get inside. The driver of this car wore a red pull-over
that was later found by a roadside; the garment was several sizes
too small for Ranucci, according to Perrault.
the Brussels daily Le Soir reports, the most remarkable find has
been the discovery of a photo, taken by a Marseille press
photographer at the Aix courthouse in March 1976. There, among the
crowd, is a bearded man with glasses said to bear an uncanny
resemblance to Fourniret.
French prosecutors say they will diligently follow both tips. But
their initial response is scepticism about whether Fourniret was in
southern France at the key date; they say they have yet to see the
photo; and they note that the method of Rambla's murder was
different from Fourniret's preferred style - strangulation.
Perrault predicts calls for the Ranucci case to be reopened wouldn't
get very far.
can't see the police jumping up and down with enthusiasm about the
prospect of delving into an inquiry which was botched by the
Marseille police at that time. And don't forget that a President [Valery
Giscard d'Estaing] who is still alive refused to issue a reprieve
and Ranucci was sent to the guillotine. In my opinion, there will be
a big temptation to drop it."