Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Woman charged over newborn deaths

Reporters gather outside the house where police found the corpses of eight newborn babies, in Villers-au-Tertre, northern France

A French woman who admitted suffocating eight of her newborns and concealing their corpses in the garden and garage of her home has been charged with manslaughter.

Dominique Cottrez, a 46-year-old nurse's aide with two grown daughters, said that after a bad experience with her first pregnancy she never again wanted to see a doctor.

She admitted delivering the babies herself and placing the corpses in plastic bags. She buried two of the newborns in the garden and hid the other bodies in the garage, prosecutor Eric Vaillant said.

"She explained that she didn't want any more children and that she didn't want to see a doctor to take contraceptives," Vaillant told a news conference. "She was perfectly conscious of the fact that she was pregnant each time."

Cottrez's husband, who was not charged, was in a state of shock but the family remained united behind the mother, his lawyer said.

"I want to emphasise that, as we speak, there is a sacred union within the family," attorney Pierre-Jean Gribouva told AP Television News. "That is to say there is a strong union between the children, the father and this mother of two (grown) children. There is no rejection and they are very united," he said.

Cottrez and her husband Pierre-Marie were detained on Wednesday after two corpses in plastic bags were discovered in a garden by the new owners of a house that had belonged to the woman's father in the town of Villers-au-Tertre in northern France. Under questioning, the woman admitted that there were six other corpses and told investigators that they were in plastic bags in the garage of her home, where they were found, officials said.

The woman remained in detention and will undergo further psychiatric testing, Vaillant said. Her husband was freed from custody and not charged, although he remains under judicial control. He claimed he knew nothing about his wife's pregnancies.

Vaillant noted that Mrs Cottrez is quite heavy, making it easy to conceal a pregnancy. The prosecutor had said earlier in a statement that the husband could be charged with failure to report a crime and concealment of corpses.

The husband's lawyer said his client was unjustly stigmatised for not noticing his wife's numerous pregnancies, but "we can make the same analysis about other people who should have noticed and haven't," a reference to colleagues, neighbours and others.

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