Story of baby kept in car boot for two years leaves France shocked

The trial of a Frenchwoman who kept her baby girl in the boot of a car for two years has begun in France and has left the country shocked as new details of the child's horrible existence emerge.

Story of baby kept in car boot for two years leaves France shocked
Evidence is pictured during the trial of Rosa Maria Da Cruz. Photo: AFP

It was mechanics carrying out repairs on a car in south-western France who first made the appalling discovery of a naked, dehydrated baby girl in a car boot back in 2013.

Now her mother, Rosa-Maria Da Cruz, is on trial for hiding the existence of her daughter and for depriving her of care and food, “compromising the health of the child”.

New, horrifying details have emerged since the woman's trial began in Correze in the south west of France on Monday.

One investigator described the car boot as the child's “living space”, detailing the condensation, several millimeters of water, and “larvae, flies, insects and maggots”.

The mother had previously told the police that she had brought her daughter into the detached house which she shared with her companion and her three other children when her family was out.

Mother Rosa-Maria Da Cruz pictured during her trial. Photo: AFP

Da Cruz's lawyer Chrystèle Chassagne-Delpech has argued that the mother was not in her right state of mind from the moment the child was born, describing her client as “as much a victim as the child”. 
For her part Da Cruz said on Monday: “I regret it very much, yes, I regret it.”
Serena, who is now aged around seven-years-old, still suffers the physical and mental consequences of her mother's actions, it has been revealed. Those consequences may be irreversible.
Since she was found the child has recovered from the stunting that she suffered from being cooped up for so long but still suffers “relatively large developmental deficiencies” which she can make progress with but “not significant progress”, according to psychiatrists involved in the trial.  
“She was taught to walk, run, ride a bike, chew,” said the lawyers representing Serena, adding that she only started chewing at six-years-old — until then she had “survived on bottles and mashed potatoes”.
The discovery

On the day of her discovery the mechanics first became concerned about the strong odour of excrement coming from the boot of the Peugeot 307 Break.

They were also alarmed to hear moans coming from the boot.

However Da Cruz reportedly tried to dismiss their concerns, explaining that the strange noises were coming from toys which had just been switched on.

Unconvinced, the mechanics opened up the boot, only to find a naked and dehydrated baby girl in a basket.

When Serena was found she was in a filthy state and appeared to have a fever, according to the mechanics.

One of the mechanics who found her Guillaume Iguacel has said the baby, Serena looked like a “mummy” when he first saw her. 

“I felt that the baby needed air, that she was going to suffocate,” one of the mechanics told TF1 television at the time. 

Paramedics were called and she was immediately taken to hospital in nearby Brive-la-Gaillarde.
The file of Rosa Maria Da Cruz, the mother of Serena. Photo: AFP
When she was found Serena weighed less than eight kilos instead of the 12 kilos normal for a child at two-years-old.
“She was so scared, so cold, so hungry,” said lawyer Isabelle Faure-Roche, adding that the baby was suffering from anemia when she was found. 
Medical staff had to wash the child four times “to return her to her proper appearance”. 
“The baby was hidden from all points of view, apparently since birth. It’s a situation that defies belief,” said local prosecutor Jean-Pierre Laffitte when Serena was found back in 2013. 
Disturbing reports from neighbours at the time suggested that the girl may have been kept hidden away in the boot of the family car since birth.
“We had the impression that this woman lived in her car. She never left it,” said Pascale, one of the family's neighbours.
“I recall seeing her several times a week with her car parked in a little lot about 200 metres from her house,” she added, referring to a carpark hidden from view, between fields and a row of houses under construction.
In addition to not being registered with the state, Serena's birth may even have been unknown to her father, a 40-year-old unemployed stone mason.
For his part, the girl’s father has told investigators he was completely unaware of the child’s existence until her discovery, a claim backed up by the mother during her interview with police at the time.
The couple's three other children, aged between four and 10 years old were also taken away at the time. 

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French minister investigated after rape allegations

A junior minister in President Emmanuel Macron's government is under investigation after two allegations of rape were brought against her, French prosecutors have said.

French minister investigated after rape allegations

The allegations go back to when Chrysoula Zacharopoulou – who is now state secretary for development, Francophonie and international partnerships – worked as a gynaecologist, according to French magazine Marianne.

One complaint was lodged on May 25th and the investigation opened two days later, the prosecutors said. The second complaint was filed on June 16th.

Greece-born Zacharopoulou, 46, joined the government of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in May, having been a member of the European Parliament for the previous three years. She reports to Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

She gained prominence in 2015 by campaigning for greater public awareness of endometriosis together with actress Julie Gayet, who this year married former French president Francois Hollande.

Zacharopoulou was strongly involved in the UN’s COVAX coronavirus vaccine rollout effort, and has spoken out in favour of women’s reproductive rights.

These are not the first rape allegations to overshadow Macron’s government and come at a time of political difficulty for the president after he failed to retain a majority in parliamentary elections.

Prosecutors investigated Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin over an allegation for rape filed in 2017. He denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in
January asked for the case to be dropped.

Rape allegations were also made against Solidarities minister Damien Abad last month but French prosecutors have said they were not currently opening an investigation.