Trial for French mum who killed eight babies

A French nurse who confessed to murdering eight of her babies because she “did not want to use contraception” will finally stand trial in France, a court has ruled.

Trial for French mum who killed eight babies
Dominique Cottrez, will finally stand trial in France after confessing to murdering eight babies. Photo: AFP

In a long-running case that horrified France, nurse Dominique Cottrez, 50, admitted in 2010 to “systematically strangling and burying” her newborn children and hiding their bodies in bin bags. It is the country's worst known ever case of infanticide.

Cottrez had tried to escape charges, claiming the crimes all took place more than ten years ago, so the “statute of limitations” for prosecution had expired. Under French law a prosecution cannot be brought after an extended lapse of time.

But a French court has now ruled that she must go on trial because the fact that she hid the bodies of the children means that it is impossible to determine whether the crimes had been committed outside the ten-year time limit.

The bodies were first discovered four years ago when the new owners of a house in the village of Villers-au-Tertre, near Lille, found human bones in their garden while digging a pond. They alerted police, who found the remains of two children which had been there since the Cottrez family moved out of the house in 1991.

When investigating police traced Cottrez and her husband to another house just half a mile away, they found the bodies of six more babies buried there in the garden in bin liners.

In 2010 public prosecutor Eric Vaillant told an initial court hearing that Cottrez had managed to hide her pregnancies because she was very overweight. He said: “She told investigators that when she became aware she was pregnant she decided she did not want any more children but also did not want to see a doctor for contraception.

“She has admitted giving birth in secret and then suffocating the babies and disposing of the bodies.”

Some reports claim Cottrez said she was unwilling to seek contraception because a doctor had once made fun of her weight when she first sought help.

Her husband Pierre-Marie Cottrez, 48, has denied any knowledge of the babies being either born or killed, but may still face trial for concealing a crime.

The couple's two surviving daughters – Virginie, 22, and Emeline, 23, who each have one son – have described their mother as “the best there is” and “a doting grandmother”.

Emeline, who along with her son lived with her parents, said after the crimes had been discovered: “It’s incomprehensible that our mother could have done this. Mum was always there for us, she was always ready to do anything for her daughters. She was the best there is."

Her sister Virginie added: "We will be there for our mother. She is a good grandmother and we were happy to leave our children with her. Now that this has all come out, Mum must feel relieved that she's got nothing more to hide. We never noticed anything."

A member of Cottrez's defence team Marie-Helene Carlier told a court this week: “My client readily admits the horror of what she has done but believes that legally the time for punishment has passed.”

But France’s Court of Cassation has rejected that claim and ruled that Cottrez must stand trial next year, for the willful killing of eight minors under 15 between the years of 1987 and 2000.

In a similar case in March 2010, French mother Céline Lesage, 38, was jailed for 15 years after admitting to killing six of her newborn children and hiding their bodies in her cellar. In 2009, Véronique Courjault was sentenced to eight years after admitting killing three of her own babies, burning one corpse and hiding the others in the freezer.

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French minister apologises for Champions League chaos

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday made a partial apology for chaos at last month's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Paris, while insisting fake tickets and "delinquency" were mostly to blame.

French minister apologises for Champions League chaos

“Should things have been managed better at the Stade de France (stadium)? The answer is yes. Am I partly responsible? The answer is yes,” Darmanin told RTL radio.

“Of course, I readily apologise towards everyone who suffered from this bad management of the event,” he added.

After scenes of fans crowded into tight spaces and being tear-gassed by police caused outrage around Europe, Darmanin poured fuel on the fire by blaming supporters with fake tickets for the disruption.

UEFA events director Martin Kallen last week told French senators investigating the fiasco that the football body’s count of fake tickets was far short of the tens of thousands claimed by French authorities.

“We don’t believe it’s the number mentioned in France,” he said, adding that 2,600 fake tickets were identified at turnstiles — compared with the number of 30,000 to 40,000 people with fake tickets and without tickets suggested by Darmanin.

“It was a question of fake tickets… that created the difficulties we all know about” of large crowds of fans packed into underpasses or outside locked gates, Darmanin insisted Tuesday.

He added that “if there was something that went wrong at the Stade de France, it was the fight against delinquency”, saying he had already ordered a reorganisation of policing around the venue and that three major matches since had passed without incident.

While some supporters did report being victims of crime by gangs of youths before and after the match, there were also many complaints about police treatment of fans.

Disabled Liverpool fans last week told the Senate how officers sprayed tear gas at people in wheelchairs.

The English supporters have reacted with particular fury to Darmanin’s defence of the French police’s actions.

“People’s memories will forever be tarred by the lack of organisation and heavy-handed policing, and then of course the way authorities tried to deflect blame and scapegoat Liverpool fans for their incompetence,” Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram told AFP earlier this month.

CCTV footage from around the stadium has also been deleted despite the Senate probe.

A government report published earlier this month said a “chain of failures” by French authorities has inflicted “severe damage” on the image of the country as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in 2024.