Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michel Fourniret Serial Killer

Joanna

On the morning of May 17, 1990, Patrice Bardot, an unemployed garbage collector, traveled from his home in the French village of Monéteau to the nearby Yonne River for a day of fishing. Not long after he arrived he noticed something floating in the water. Initially, he believed it was a bobbing barrel, but as he drew nearer he was shocked to see it was a nude human body.

Bardot immediately flagged down a woman jogging on a nearby path and alerted her of the gruesome find. The jogger then ran to a cafe where the police were called. The authorities soon arrived and conducted what would later be considered a terribly bungled investigation.

The police cornered off a small section of land close to where the body was found and began searching for clues. However, investigators ignored a large portion of the surrounding area, most of which had been trampled by police, emergency personnel, onlookers and vehicles. According to an Expatica.com article by Graham Tearse, the secured area was "released to the public just several hours later" and the following day it was further trampled by children on a field trip. Had there been any evidence, it was likely lost from the contamination of the crime scene.

Joanna Parrish
Joanna Parrish

The body was withdrawn from the river and taken to a nearby hospital for identification and autopsy. The woman was identified as 20-year-old Joanna Parrish, who was from Gloucestershire, England. Joanna was enrolled in a modern languages work/study program at Leeds University and took a position as an assistant English teacher at a secondary school in the nearby town of Auxerre. She was working on a bachelor's degree in modern languages at Leeds University. At the time of her death she was only one week away from completing her posting.

An autopsy revealed that Joanna had been drugged, tied up, raped, beaten and strangled before being dumped into the river. It was suspected that her body had been in the water only several hours prior to it being found. Even though the body was discarded in broad daylight, police were unable to find any witnesses. They believed that whoever murdered Joanna was probably familiar with the area and could have even resided in the immediate vicinity. Yet, police were unable to produce any suspects.

According to Tearse, Joanna had a friend named Janet visiting from Canada around the time of her death. Janet claimed that Joanna placed an advertisement in a local newspaper offering English lessons. She planned to use the money to fund a holiday trip with her fiancé.

Investigators learned that a local man responded to Joanna's ad by phone and was interested in hiring her to teach his teenage son. They made arrangements to meet at 7 p.m. on May 16 at the town square in Auxerre. Tearse suggested that on that day, Janet joined Joanna on her trip into town and they walked around for a while before they separated at about 6:30 p.m.

Joanna went to meet the man at the town square. It was the last time Janet ever saw her again. Tearse said that Joanna never told Janet the name of the man she was planning to meet.

Several weeks after her body was discovered, Joanna was buried in Gloucestershire. Her parents, Roger and Pauline, went to Auxerre and hired a lawyer to assist them in gaining access to information about the case from the magistrate and the police detectives. They wanted to closely follow the investigation, hoping that it would eventually lead to the apprehension of their daughter's murderer. Their expectations were quickly shattered when they realized how inadequately the case was being handled.

Map: France with Burgundy shown
Map: France with Burgundy shown

At the time, Roger and Pauline didn't know that their daughter's murder was not an isolated case. In fact, there were many unsolved murders and disappearances in the Burgundy region, most of which were grossly mismanaged, completely ignored and even discarded. Many suspected that high-level officials were trying to cover up the fact that Burgundy had an unusually high murder rate for such a tiny province. It was something that could not be hidden for long.

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