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Female accomplices: Women who helped their partners kill

Monique Olivier
Image: Monique Olivier, the wife of self-confessed killer Michel Fourniret, appears in court in nothern France | Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo

The overwhelming majority of serial killers have been men. But some of these murderers were aided in their endeavours by their female partners – a fact which makes these cases even more striking in their depravity.

Meet four women who helped their men kill and kill again.

Monique Olivier

An advert in a Catholic magazine was the seed that grew into one of the most grotesque partnerships in French criminal history. The man who’d placed the ad was convicted rapist Michel Fourniret, and the woman who responded was a lonely carer named Monique Olivier. Over the course of their letters, the pair forged a terrible pact: she helped him stalk and capture girls, in return for Fourniret’s help in murdering her first husband.

Although Fourniret never lived up to his side of the bargain, Monique was absolutely true to her word. Following his release from prison in 1987, the couple embarked on an odyssey of depravity, driving around France and picking up young women and girls for Fourniret to rape and murder. The presence of Monique in the vehicle was instrumental to Fourniret’s plan, as it reassured the victims that they faced no threat.

Although Monique claimed she had been coerced and terrorised into helping Fourniret, prosecutors described her as his ‘bloody muse’ who showed absolutely no compassion for those he killed. She, like Fourniret, was imprisoned for life. In December 2023, Olivier was handed a second life sentence after being found guilty of being involved in the murders of three further women including British student Joanna Parrish.

A woman being interrogated by police

Karla Homolka

Canadian couple Paul Barnardo and Karla Homolka were known as the ‘Ken and Barbie Killers’, their conventional, clean-cut good looks giving absolutely no indication of the monstrous acts they were capable of. In fact, Barnardo had already carried out a string of sexual assaults by the time he got engaged to the glamorous Karla Homolka in 1990.

Karla proved to be a more-than-willing accomplice in the murders of three women, whose torture and rape they filmed on videotape. Even more shockingly, one of their victims was Karla’s own sister Tammy, whose virginity was Karla’s ‘Christmas gift’ to Barnardo. Karla rendered her sister unconscious with an anaesthetic stolen from the vet clinic she worked at, allowing her partner to help himself to the teenager’s body. Tammy choked to death during the assault.

In one of the most controversial legal denouements in Canadian history, Karla was offered a plea bargain. In return for providing the testimony to put Barnardo away for life, she was offered a 12-year term for manslaughter. The leniency of the sentence became glaringly apparent when videotapes came to light, showing just how complicit she was in the sadistic murders.

By then it was too late to undo the deal. Karla served the time and was released in 2005, promptly getting re-married and raising a family. In 2018, it was even reported that Karla had been supervising field trips at the school her children attended.

Charlene Gallego

Carrying out a string of savage sex-killings in a number of US states in the late 1970s, Gerald and Charlene Gallego were an unlikely couple. Gerald Gallego hailed from a tough, brutal background – his father was a cop-killer who’d been executed in the Mississippi gas chamber, and the young Gallego had been beaten and abused by several of his mother’s boyfriends. By contrast, Charlene was brought up in an affluent, upper-middle-class family, often accompanying her proud, executive father on business trips.

However, Charlene turned out to have a wild, rebellious streak, drinking hard and taking drugs. Her personal life became chaotic, and she was already twice-divorced by her early 20s. It was then that she crossed paths with Gallego.

Starting out as a willing submissive in their sadomasochistic relationship, Charlene progressed to luring young women and girls into his lethal clutches. Malls, shops, fairs and random roads were their stalking grounds, and Charlene was instrumental in convincing victims to get into their van.

After they were caught, Charlene did what Karla Homolka would do years later: she cut a deal, providing the testimony that put her husband on death row. In return, she was given a 16-year sentence and walked free from prison in 1997. Interviewed by a US news outlet years later, she stuck to the story she’d told in court, maintaining that she’d been forced to help Gallego against her will. Others have always disputed this notion, believing that she was just as culpable, and just as much a monster, as he was.

Myra Hindley

Arguably the most notorious of all female accomplices, at least in the UK, Myra Hindley helped her partner Ian Brady carry out the notorious ‘Moors Murders’ in Greater Manchester. The extent of her complicity has been hotly debated since their arrest in 1965, with Hindley herself claiming that the darkly seductive Brady had effectively purged her sense of morality and groomed her into becoming his perfect accomplice.

Brady, for his part, said that Myra Hindley was ‘surprisingly in tune’ with him from the start, and that she’d shown a kind of ruthless glee when they carried out their killings. Whatever the precise truths of their dynamic, it was Myra who superseded her murderous partner as the most universally reviled half of the duo.

This is probably because she so dramatically subverted the expectations of her gender. Violating the compassionate traits commonly associated with womanhood, Myra became – in the words of a Guardian journalist writing decades later – ‘the peroxide-haired gorgon’ whose stony-faced mugshot remains a kind of visual shorthand for all sexually-motivated murders that defy comprehension.

Charlene Gallego in a 1981 hearing
Charlene and Gerald Gallego Image – Image Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo | Above: Charlene and Gerald Gallego at bail request hearing 15th January 1981