French serial killer 'Le Grele' identified as retired police officer after 35-year hunt

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A serial killer who carried out a spate of murders and rapes in and around Paris in the 1980s and 1990s has been revealed as a retired police officer, according to reports in France.

Francois Verove, 59, is said to have used his police identity card and handcuffs to abduct and restrain his victims.

The serial killer has been known as "Le Grele", meaning "the pockmarked man", as he remained undetected for 35 years.

Verove confessed to his crimes in a suicide note written before he took his own life on Wednesday, Le Parisien reported.

He was said to have been among 750 gendarmes, a French paramilitary police officer, who had been called in for questioning on 29 September after authorities suspected the killer had worked in the security services.

Verove had been due to provide a DNA sample but never showed up, according to reports.

Instead he disappeared from his family home before being found dead at a rented flat near Montpellier in the south of the country on Wednesday.

French media reported that he had left a note saying he had not been in a good state at the time of the crimes but had later "sorted himself out".

The state prosecutor confirmed that DNA taken from Verove after his death linked him to several crime scenes, according to reports.

The serial killer was thought to be responsible for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Cecile Block, who was snatched as she left her apartment building for school in May 1986. The girl was found dead in a basement of the building.

She had been raped, strangled and stabbed in the chest.

Her half naked body was found covered by an old carpet.

During the subsequent police investigation, residents of the building recalled seeing a man in the elevator with pockmarked skin.

Luc Richard, Cecile's older brother, was quoted in the Sud Ouest newspaper as saying: "He seemed very sure of himself. He spoke to me in a very bold, very polite way, too. He said something to me like, 'Have a very, very good day'."

Cecile's parents both died without knowing who was responsible for their daughter's death.

The serial killer was also responsible for the murders of Gilles Politi, 38, and his 21-year-old au pair Irmgard Mueller, both of whom were tortured.

The murder of a 19-year-old woman named Karine Leroy has also been attributed to Verove.

Genetic testing conducted a decade after Cecile's murder is said to have revealed her killer had gone on to commit a series of rapes.

In three separate attacks, on a 26-year-old German woman, a 14-year-old girl, and an 11-year-old girl, he had identified himself as a policeman.

Investigators at the time thought this was just a ploy he used to gain control of his victims, according to reports.

However, it was also this detail that appears to have eventually led them to Verove - whose crimes are thought to have taken place between 1986 and at least 1994.

Officers eventually uncovered evidence that "Le Grele" was a member of the security forces who had been driving a white car.

In one case of abduction and rape, he reportedly showed his police card to make a lone girl get into his unmarked car.

The killer is also said to have used elaborate police or military restraint techniques during attacks.

His last known crime reportedly happened near a gendarmerie training centre.

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