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Woman on trial for deaths of babies

A French woman has gone on trial accused of suffocating eight of her newborn babies after she told investigators that she feared they were from a long, incestuous relationship with her father.

Dominique Cottrez, 51, stands accused of multiple counts of first-degree murder of minors. She faces life in prison if found guilty by a jury in the northern city of Douai.

The worst infanticide case in modern French history stunned the country when the bodies were discovered in and around the Cottrez family's village home in 2010.

Cottrez, who has two grown daughters, told investigators that over more than a decade she carried several babies to term and then killed them.

Her obesity appeared to hide the pregnancies, which went unnoticed by her husband, children, neighbours, colleagues and even doctors at a nearby hospital.

Dozens of forensic and psychiatric experts, police investigators and witnesses, including her husband, daughters and siblings, are scheduled to give evidence.

A withdrawn, secretive nurse's aide, Cottrez told investigators she was raped by her father, first when she was eight and repeatedly through her childhood and teenage years, according to judicial documents. She later entered a long, incestuous relationship with him as an adult, including after she married, and said that it became consenting - and even said she was in love with her father more than she was with her husband.

Her father died in 2007.

One of the first witnesses called to give evidence is Leonard Meriaux, who bought the Cottrez family house and discovered the first corpse in the garden in 2010. He called police, who found another in the garden and six more in the garage of the house.

Investigators soon turned their suspicions to Cottrez, who quickly confessed. She told the investigating judge that she had never used contraception or had an abortion because of a phobia of doctors. She also said she did not keep the babies because she was afraid that they were the results of her incestuous relations with her father. She said the killing had become a "means of contraception", according to the judicial documents.

The verdict is expected next Thursday.

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