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Hundreds mourn murdered French schoolgirl

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Hundreds mourn murdered French schoolgirl
Crowds watched Maelys de Araujo speak on a large screen erected in La-Tour-du-Pin. Photo: Romain Lafabregue/ AFP
16:46 CEST+02:00
Mourners wept and hundreds of well-wishers laid down white flowers at the funeral on Saturday of Maëlys de Araujo, a French eight year old abducted from a wedding and murdered.
Maëly's body was found in February, six months after the schoolgirl went missing from an August 27 wedding in a case which shocked the whole country.
"Nine months are lives have been broken ... I spent nine years of happiness with you," said her tearful mother, Jennifer Cleyet-Marrel, at the funeral in the central eastern town of La-Tour-du-Pin, which was decked out in white 
balloons to symbolise a lost innocent child.
Nordhal Lelandais, a former soldier aged 35, admitted in February to killing Maelys, but claimed he accidentally struck her in the face. His testimony led investigators to her remains but the exact cause of death has not been established.
The 400-capacity church was full to bursting for the service which was broadcast on big screens in the town square where some 200 people, some who had come a considerable distance, gathered to pay their respects along with members of the media.
Among those present were the parents of Arthur Noyer, a young soldier Lelandais has confessed to killing in April last year.
Maelys was to be buried at a private ceremony following the funeral in her nearby home village.
"This could happen to anyone. They are finally going to be able to lay her to rest," said Sebastien, 45, a resident of La-Tour-du-Pin who came to pay his respects and sign a book of condolences.
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