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CRIME

Bodies of two babies found in French freezer

Two newborn babies whose corpses were found in a woman's freezer in southern France did not die of natural causes, prosecutors said on Monday.

Bodies of two babies found in French freezer
The building in Bedoin, southern France, where the bodies of two newborns were found in a freezer on December 1, 2022. (Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP)

 “The two children were not stillborn,” Florence Galtier, prosecutor in the southern town of Avignon, told AFP, citing an autopsy.

Their deaths were “not natural in origin”, she added, after the discovery at the home of a 41-year-old woman arrested last Thursday in the southern village of Bedoin.

The woman was charged Friday on suspicion of murder of two minors.

It is not known if she is the mother of the victims, both girls.

The autopsy showed one of the babies had suffered a blow leaving “cranial and intracranial” bruising, believed to be the cause of death.

Galtier said it was not clear if the injuries were the result of violence or a fall, a lack of care or something else.

She added it had also not been established if the girls were twins — or even unrelated.

Police received a telephone tip off from a man whose identity and potential connection to the case are also unclear.

France has known similar cases over the years.

Last March, a woman in her 30s was placed under investigation after two frozen babies were found at her home.

In 2015, five bodies were found in a similar case which saw the mother handed an eight-year jail term.

Another case which went down in French legal annals was that of Veronique Courjault, given an eight-year sentence in 2009 for killing three of her newborn children.

The bodies of two were discovered in a freezer in the home she shared with her husband in South Korea.

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ENVIRONMENT

France to probe microplastic pellet pollution on Atlantic beaches

French prosecutors said on Friday they would investigate the appearance of vast quantities of tiny toxic plastic pellets along the Atlantic coast that endanger marine life and the human food chain.

France to probe microplastic pellet pollution on Atlantic beaches

The criminal probe will follow several legal complaints about the pellet invasion lodged by local authorities and the central government in Paris, Camille Miansoni, chief prosecutor in the western city of Brest, told AFP.

The microscopic pellets, called nurdles, are the building blocks for most of the world’s plastic production, from car bumpers to salad bowls.

They are usually packed in bags of 25 kilogrammes for transport, each containing around a million nurdles, which are sometimes called “Mermaids’ Tears”. 

But they can easily spill into the ocean when a cargo ship sinks or loses a container. Environmentalists also suspect that factories sometimes dump them into the sea.

Fish and birds often mistake them for food and, once ingested, the tiny granules can make their way into the diet of humans.

Experts told AFP the nurdles found along the coast of Brittany may have come from a plastic industry container that fell into the sea.

“We can’t rule out a single source for the industrial pellets,” said Nicolas Tamic at the CEDRE pollution research body in Brest.

On Tuesday, the French government filed a legal complaint against persons unknown and called for a international search for any containers that may have been lost at sea.

Local authorities have followed suit, and the environmental crime branch of the Brest prosecutor’s office will lead the investigation.

Last weekend, around 100 people took part in a clean-up campaign on a microplastic-infested beach in Pornic in Brittany to collect pellets and draw attention to the problem. 

“We think they’ve come from a container that may have been out there for a while and opened up because of recent storms,” said Lionel Cheylus, spokesman for the NGO Surfrider Foundation.

“Our action is symbolic. It’s not like we’re going to pick up an entire container load,” said Annick, a pensioner, as she filled her yoghurt pot with nurdles. 

French politicians have taken note. Joel Guerriau, a senator from the region, has called for a “clear international designation” of  the pellets as being harmful.

Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Bechu labelled the nurdles “an environmental nightmare”, telling AFP the government would support associations fighting pellet pollution.

Ingesting plastic is harmful for human health but nurdles, in addition, attract chemical contaminants found in the sea to their surface, making them even more toxic.

Measuring less than five millimetres in size, they are not always readily visible except when they wash up in unusually huge quantities, as has been the case since late November along the northwestern French coast.

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