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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 14:47 GMT
French serial killer given life
Emile Louis
Emile Louis knew the victims personally
A 70-year-old French bus driver has been jailed for life for the murders of seven young women in the 1970s.

Emile Louis was found guilty of killing the women - many of whom were mentally disabled and in local council care in northern Burgundy - over 30 years.

He confessed to some of the murders four years ago, although he has since retracted the confession.

Louis had already been given 20 years in jail for raping his second wife and his daughter-in-law.

He will serve a minimum of 18 years.

Before the judges retired to consider their verdict, Louis said: "I'm sorry for the families, but I'm innocent".

May they haunt your sleep, your days, your nights... the kingdom of emptiness - it is you
Didier Seban,
Lawyer for victims' families
His lawyers have maintained that the crimes took place too long ago for the case to be legally valid.

But Didier Seban, a lawyer representing victims' families, told the defendant: "You, Monsieur Louis, will one day have a grave around which your children can gather. They (the victims) will have no grave.

"May they haunt your sleep, your days, your nights... the kingdom of emptiness - it is you."

Two bodies were found in shallow graves after Louis, who knew many of the young women personally, gave police instructions to their whereabouts in 2000. He later retracted his confession and the bodies of the others, all aged between 15 and 25, have not been found.

Report lost

Over three decades, some 30 young women went missing while in the care of the social services in the Yonne region.

The father of murdered British student Joanna Parrish, from Gloucestershire, whose body was found near the city of Auxerre in 1990, was following the trial proceedings.
Victims' families
The victims' families have kept up pressure on the authorities

Her murder was never solved, but Roger Parrish has now ruled out Louis' involvement. After the trial, he said: "I don't think he had any direct involvement or contact with Joanna.

"He wasn't in the area at the time that she went missing. I believe he was in prison in the south of the country for other sex offences."

The Louis case has been marked by a series of judicial problems. In March 2002, the government punished three magistrates for failing in their duties by allowing Louis to avoid prosecution for more than 20 years.

The thoroughness of the investigation was also questioned.

Many of the victims had severe learning difficulties, yet the local authorities simply recorded them as runaways. The French police appeared to show little interest.

Only one local gendarme pursued evidence against Louis, but the enquiries were halted and a damning report was lost until 1996.

The gendarme was then found shot dead - in what was recorded as suicide.

It was only thanks to pressure from the victims' families that the issue was kept alive.




SEE ALSO:
French 'serial killer' on trial
03 Nov 04 |  Europe



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