French couple heads to court after police find corpses of 8 newborns at their home

By Catherine Gaschka, AP
Thursday, July 29, 2010

French couple in court in case of 8 dead newborns

VILLERS-AU-TERTRE, France — A French prosecutor recommended Thursday that charges be leveled against a couple detained after eight dead babies were discovered on their former property in northern France.

A judicial official said the couple, in their mid-40s, are the parents of the dead babies. The corpses were found on two different parts of their property in Villers-au-Tertre, near the city of Lille. The official was not authorized to be publicly identified because the investigation is under way.

The woman would face charges of manslaughter against minors less than 15 years old and her husband for failure to report a crime and concealment of corpses, prosecutor Eric Vaillain said in a statement. He planned a news conference later Thursday.

The two were detained Wednesday, and French police escorted them to a court hearing in the city of Douai in the Nord region near the French border with Belgium.

Police sealed the doors, gate and windows of the house where the remains of some of the babies were discovered. DNA tests are being conducted to establish for sure whether the couple are the parents, and autopsies are being conducted on the corpses to try to determine the cause of death.

The investigation began after the new owners of the house where the couple had lived found two bags of bones in the garden and plastic bags of bones in the garage.

France has seen a string of cases in recent years of mothers killing their newborns and saving and hiding the corpses.

In one case, Celine Lesage was sentenced in March to 15 years in prison after acknowledging in court that she killed six of her newborns, whose corpses were found in plastic bags in her basement in northwest France.

Another Frenchwoman, Veronique Courjault, was convicted last year of murdering three of her newborn children. Her husband discovered two of the corpses in a freezer while the two were living in South Korea. During the trial psychiatrists testified that she suffered from a psychological condition known as “pregnancy denial.”

Germany also has seen similar cases. In one, a woman was convicted of manslaughter in 2006 and sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison for killing eight of her newborn babies and burying them in flower pots and a fish tank in the garden of her parents’ home near the German-Polish border.

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