A retired police officer was identified as the serial killer behind a spate of murders and rapes in and around Paris in the 1980s and 1990s, during which he used his police card, handcuffs and professional restraint techniques to arrest young women and girls, but escaped capture for decades until he committed suicide this week.
In one of the biggest cold business exams in Paris police history, investigators searched for DNA evidence to identify the notorious serial killer and rapist known as the “pockmarked man” who had avoided being captured for 35 years.
Cold case investigators recently limited their search to former gendarmes – military police officers – summoning hundreds of people for questioning. But one of them, François Vérove, 59, committed suicide this week in a rented apartment in the south of France after being summoned for an interview. The public prosecutor confirmed after his death that the DNA of Vérove, who had worked as a police officer and gendarme, corresponded to several crime scenes. French media reported that he left a note saying he was not in good condition at the time of his crimes but did not give details.
As investigators reopened old cases and linked different crimes together, several factors indicated that the killer and rapist were either an active member of the police or gendarmerie. He had committed murders, rapes and attempted murders from 1986 to at least 1994 and had never been arrested.
In one kidnapping and rape case, he had shown his police card to get a girl alone in his unmarked car. In at least three rapes, he is said to have identified with women and girls as a police officer. He is said to have known police terminology and used handcuffs. He had used sophisticated police or military restraint techniques. His last known crime occurred near a gendarmerie training center.
His victims included an 11-year-old girl he allegedly arrested in his apartment building elevator as she left for school in 1986. She was raped and murdered and found in the basement. Another victim was a 26-year-old German au pair, who was assaulted and murdered in a Paris apartment. Her boss was found murdered near her and had been immobilized using skilled police or military techniques.
DNA evidence was later extracted from a victim’s cigarette butt and sanitary pad found at a crime scene, but it had never been linked to a perpetrator.
In a statement, the district attorney said there had been “elements” causing cold case investigators to focus on someone “who was working as a gendarme” at the time of the crimes. In recent months, the examining magistrate had summoned 750 gendarmes who were working in the Paris region at the time of the attacks. One of them, “a 59-year-old man living in the south of France”, who had served as a gendarme and then a police officer and had since retired, was contacted on 24. September and summoned for questioning five days later. Instead, he disappeared from his family home, rented an apartment and was found there dead this week.
French media reported that he left a note saying he was not in good condition at the time of the crimes but had “settled” afterwards.
Didier Seban, lawyer for the families of the victims, told France Info: [police] map, a number of things the victims told him to say … He knew all the techniques of the police.
He said: “We will ask the justice system to continue investigating, to find out if he had any accomplices and to determine the number of victims. Families must have answers.