A French serial killer has been found dead after 35 years on the run, just as police were closing in on identifying him.
The 59-year-old armed forces officer — nicknamed ‘Le Grele’ or ‘pockmarked’ — had been wanted by police since the 1980s for the murder and rape of young girls.
But the man, named as Francois Verove, committed suicide in a rented apartment on the Mediterranean coast leaving a written confession. He was found dead three days after his wife reported him missing.
In his most notorious case, he was suspected of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl named Cecile, who was found dead in the basement of the Paris building where she lived.
He was also believed to have strangled a couple to death in the central Marais district of the capital in 1987.
A 59-year-old French serial killer has been found dead after 35 years on the run. The man had been wanted by police since the 1980s. He was nicknamed ‘Le Grele’ or ‘pockmarked’
He had worked as an armed officer in the Gendarmerie. Police were closing in on his identity before he committed suicide
Over the years, investigators came to believe that the suspect may have been part of the Gendarmerie — armed forces in charge of internal security — at the time of the crimes, and established a DNA profile of him.
In recent months, an investigating magistrate had begun questioning around 750 gendarmes who had been deployed in the Paris region at the time.
One of them was Verove, a 59-year-old man living in the south of France, who was sent a summons on September 24 to report for questioning on September 29, but then was reported missing by his wife three days after the summons.
He was found dead on Wednesday in Grau-du-Roi, a fishing village on the Mediterranean coast, a prosecutors statement said.
He was a former gendarme, who later became a police officer and then retired, the statement said.
Police took a DNA sample from the body and found that it matched the genetic profile found at several of the crime scenes.
According to local media, Verove mentioned ‘past impulses’ in a letter he left behind, which he had since brought ‘under control’.
He admitted murders without detailing the victims or circumstances, and said he had committed no crimes after 1997.
The murder confession contained no specifics, they said.
In 1986, police had published a police sketch based on witness statements that showed a man of around 25 years old, six feet tall with light-brown hair, and with visible traces of acne on his face.
A lawyer for Cecile’s family, Didier Seban, thanked police for their work but also told AFP that it was ‘painful to know that the criminal took his secrets with him’.
His nickname dates back to the murder of Cecile.
Her half-brother, Luc Richard, was among residents who recalled seeing a man with an acne-scarred face on the day of the crime in their Paris apartment building.
The then youngster, who helped police draw a sketch of the suspect, said he shared a lift with the man who seemed ‘very sure of himself’.
He recalled during an interview in 2015: ‘He said something to me like, “Have a very, very good day”.’
According to the Parisien newspaper, Verove is also the suspect in another murder near Paris, of 19-year-old Karine Leroy, in 1994 in the city of Meaux.