A former police officer has been identified as the serial killer and rapist suspected in some of France's oldest unsolved cases from the 1980s and 1990s. His body was found this week, just as police were closing in on his identity.
Police had been looking for "Le Grele" (the pockmarked man) since the 1980s for the murder and rape of young girls, but they'd never been able to track him down.
The list of crimes he was wanted for included rape of minors, murder, armed robbery and the kidnapping of minors, Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said in a statement late Thursday.
In the 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 building where she lived in the 19th arrondissement of Paris.
He is also believed to have strangled a couple to death in the central Marais district of the capital in 1987.
Police found the suspect dead on Wednesday after he had committed suicide. He was identified as retired police officer and gendarme François Verove.
Over the years, investigators came to believe that the suspect may have been part of the Gendarmerie at the time of the crimes, and established a DNA profile of him.
Certain crimes revealed the suspect had used a police card, handcuffs and restraint techniques to stop some of the girls and women victims.
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 59-year-old Verove, now living in the south of France. He was sent a summons on 24 September but was reported missing by his wife three days later.
He was found dead on Wednesday in Grau-du-Roi, a fishing village on the Mediterranean coast, a prosecutor's 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.
French media reported that Verove left a note saying he hadn't been in a good state at the time of his "impulses" but had since brought them "under control" and had committed no crimes after 1997.
According to Le 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.