French mother jailed for five years for keeping baby daughter in boot of her car

A French appeals court on Wednesday sentenced a woman to five years in prison for having kept her baby daughter hidden for nearly two years, mainly in the maggot-infested boot of her car.

French mother jailed for five years for keeping baby daughter in boot of her car
Rosa Maria Da Cruz, right. Photo: AFP

The girl, now seven, was permanently traumatised by the ordeal, and today has the mental capacity of a two-to-three-year-old, according to doctors.

Prosecutors say she was kept in a carrycot for two years, usually in the trunk of her mother's station wagon and sometimes in an abandoned room in the family home in the Correze region of central France.

No one else knew of the baby's existence.

A mechanic discovered the infant in the filthy boot of Rosa Maria Da Cruz's car when she took it to be repaired.

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

Da Cruz, originally from Portugal, also has three other children, and her lawyers said she never accepted her fourth pregnancy.

Last November, after a week-long jury trial, a court sentenced Da Cruz to a five-year jail term, but three years were suspended.

She appealed the sentence, but so did prosecutors who sought a sentence of no less than 10 years.

On Wednesday, appeals judges in Limoges said Da Cruz should serve five years in prison and withdrew all parental authority over her daughter, now in foster care.

The girl suffers severe mental impairments, including irreversible autism, which medical experts attribute to sensory deprivation during her early months.

Da Cruz's partner Domingos Sampaio Alves, an unemployed bricklayer, insisted during a previous court appearance that he had no idea Da Cruz 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, then aged nine, 14 and 15.

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

During the trial, it emerged that Da Cruz had also initially hidden the pregnancies of two of her other children from her partner, not wanting to accept reality.

Her lawyers had argued for Da Cruz's acquittal, saying she was mentally unwell.

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French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.