Mother who hid baby in filthy car boot jailed in France

A French court on Friday sentenced a woman who kept her baby hidden in the maggot-infested boot of her car to two years in jail for negligence causing mental disability.

Mother who hid baby in filthy car boot jailed in France
Rosa Maria Da Cruz (L) during the trial. Photo: AFP

Rosa Maria Da Cruz, a mother of four originally from Portugal, kept her daughter Serena hidden away until she was nearly two.

Her lawyers said she had never accepted falling pregnant again.

In 2013, a mechanic discovered the infant in the filthy boot of Da Cruz's car when she took it to be repaired.

Hearing a noise, he opened the trunk to discover the baby in a car seat, naked, filthy and dehydrated. She was surrounded by maggots and excrement.

The infant was also kept in an unused room at the family home in the Correze region of central France.

After a week-long jury trial a court in town of Tulle sentenced Da Cruz to a five-year jail term, three years of which were suspended, and ordered that she be monitored by social services for five years and receive psychiatric treatment.

She was jailed on Friday evening in a prison in the central city of Limoges but was given leave to apply for early parole.

The case of the “baby in the boot” caused horror in France.

Serena, who turns seven next week and is in foster care, suffers from severe mental impairments, including irreversible autism, which medical experts have linked to sensory deprivation during her early months.

On Friday Da Cruz, who had faced up to 20 years imprisonment, asked her daughter's forgiveness.

“I realise I hurt her a lot and that I will never again see my little girl,” she said.

Da Cruz's partner Domingos Sampaio Alves, an unemployed bricklayer, insisted he had no idea his partner had given birth to another child.

“I don't know why she did this,” he told the court, describing her as “a good mother” to their other children, who are aged nine, 14 and 15.

She and Alves were allowed to keep their three older children, whom a paediatrician described in court as having been “perfectly raised”.

“You could see she had been a good mother, and we could not understand why Serena had not received the same quality of care at home,” the doctor said.

Da Cruz's lawyers had argued that she was in denial of her pregnancy and, later, of Serena's existence, and asked the court not to jail “a woman who is suffering”.

During the trial it emerged that she had had initially hidden the pregnancies of two of her other children from her partner, not wanting to face reality.

The prosecution had insisted the case was one of wilful neglect, saying Da Cruz's elaborate cover-up deprived Serena of adequate care and food, as well as contact with the outside world and childhood stimulation.

Judge Gilles Fonrouge said that while the child was now in good physical health, she was “closed off to interactions around her”.

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

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French police break-up fake Bordeaux wine ring

Police investigating drug-trafficking in south west France have broken up a counterfeit Bordeaux wine ring following an eight-month investigation.

French police break-up fake Bordeaux wine ring

Prosecutors said that 100 gendarmes were involved in an operation to arrest up to 20 suspects in seven départements after the fake wine scam was discovered when fake wine labels were discovered by officers investigating a drugs ring. 

During searches, a dozen vehicles and, “a large volume of wine” were seized, they added.

They estimated that several hundred thousand bottles of Spanish wine had been passed off as being from the Médoc wine region of France.

Investigations involving a dedicated police unit revealed “a large-scale fraud organised by the owner of a vineyard in the Médoc”, police said, who obtained wine via “Spanish contacts”, bottled it at night and put fake labels on the bottles.

The fake wines were then sold “by the pallet” in several areas via “a network of official and unofficial distributors made up of companies, pensioners and self-employed people”, according to prosecutors. 

Orders amounting to several thousand bottles were sent abroad, with customers believing they were buying Bordeaux chateau wines at bargain prices, prosecutors said, when the bottles really contained “low-end wines …. from remote areas”.

Three suspects, including someone described as the ‘main instigator’ appeared before an examining magistrate on Wednesday and was charged with a variety of offences linked to fraud.

A source close to the case told AFP that the counterfeiting targeted mid-range Médoc wines, which are easier to counterfeit than the grand crus. 

“If the facts are proven, we hope that the perpetrators will be heavily condemned because these practices harm the image of Bordeaux wines and the image of all those who work well and respect the rules,” reacted the Interprofessional Council of Bordeaux Wine contacted by AFP.