Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Woman Tricked Into Meeting Ex-Lover, Ends Up Dead in a Suitcase

Muriel Toniol

Muriel Toniol, victim photo

The online profile of the man Muriel Toniol, 43, met a on a French language dating website was both seductive and intriguing. Coulibaly, however, as he called himself on the dating site, turned out to be Muriel’s former lover, Didier Ouattara, 41, who had been stalking her. Muriel did not find out who Coulibaly really was until he tricked her into meeting him at a hotel where he strangled her, stuffed her body into a suitcase, and set it afloat in a nearby lake in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Muriel was first reported missing in December 2012, and Ouattara, who worked as a network administrator and was originally from the Ivory Coast, was the prime suspect. According to witnesses, Ouattara was unable to accept that Muriel no longer wanted to have anything to do with him after ending their relationship, which friends said was rocky at best. After Muriel dumped him, he remained obsessed with Muriel, who at one time worked as a stripper. He began stalking her, repeatedly calling her and showing up unannounced where she lived with at least one child whose identity has been kept private.

After his arrest, it did not take long for Ouattara to confess that he had murdered Muriel, Le Parisien reported. Police were able to match Ouattara’s and Muriel’s online records to Ouattara’s account of what happened.

Ouattara described how he seduced Muriel online while posing as Coulibaly. After several weeks of flirting online, Muriel agreed to meet him at a hotel near Aix-en-Provence. Coulibaly gave very specific instructions as to what he wanted her to do. He first arranged for a hired chauffeur to meet her at the train strain station and drive her to his hotel room. Before entering the room, she had agreed to wear a blindfold. But after taking off the blindfold, Muriel, of course, discovered that she was alone behind a locked door with her stalker ex-lover Ouattara instead of Coulibaly.

Witnesses reported that Muriel began screaming and that they heard what they thought was a fight taking place in the hotel room. Nobody, however, called the police.

Ouattara told police that he had silenced Muriel by beating her unconscious before he stuffed her in to a large suitcase, while autopsy reports indicate that he strangled her. He claimed that she woke up and “fell” into the nearby Rhone River, where Ouattara said she drowned.

After a few days in custody, Ouattara killed himself in his jail cell, leaving behind a suicide note. Police gave up on finding Muriel’s body in the Rhone River, until in May 2013 a hiker reported finding a suitcase at the edge of a lake near Aix-en-Provence that gave off a horrible stench.  

It took several weeks for coroners to determine that the badly decomposed body found in the suitcase belonged to Muriel, but the mystery of her whereabouts was finally solved.

The details of Muriel’s murder resembled in a macabre sort of way another incident in France. In that case,  a suitcase was found floating in the ocean with a badly decomposed body inside it off the coast of Lorient. The body turned out to belong to a man in his fifties who worked at a massage parlor that served as a front for a brothel. Police have not disclosed whether or not that case gave Ouattara the idea to kill his ex-lover and stuff her body in a suitcase in a similar way. After Ouattara lied to police, however, about what happened to Muriel and where her body was, investigators have at least been able to piece together the events that led to her disappearance and death.

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