French woman admits to suffocating newborns

Reporters are seen in front of the house where French police found the corpses of eight newborn babies, in Villers-au-Tertre, northern France on July 29.
Reporters are seen in front of the house where French police found the corpses of eight newborn babies, in Villers-au-Tertre, northern France on July 29.Remy De La Mauviniere / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A French woman who admitted to suffocating eight of her newborns and concealing their corpses in the garden and garage of her home has been charged with manslaughter, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Dominique Cottrez, a 46-year-old nurse's aide by profession, said that after a bad experience with her first pregnancy she never again wanted to see a doctor.

She admitted to delivering the babies herself and placing the corpses in plastic bags. She buried two of the newborns in the garden and hid the rest of them in the garage, prosecutor Eric Vaillant said.

"She explained that she didn't want any more children and that she didn't want to see a doctor to take contraceptives," Vaillant told a news conference. "She was perfectly conscious of the fact that she was pregnant each time."

Cottrez and her husband, Pierre-Marie Cottrez, were detained Wednesday after two corpses were discovered by the new owners in plastic bags in the garden of a house that had belonged to the woman's father in the town of Villers-au-Tertre in northern France. Under questioning, the woman admitted that there were six other corpses and told investigators that they were in plastic bags in the garage of her home where they were found.

The woman is still in detention and will undergo further psychiatric testing, Vaillant said.

Her husband was freed from custody and not charged, although he remains under judicial control. He said he knew nothing about the pregnancies of his wife, who is very large and apparently easily concealed her condition. Earlier, Vaillant said in a statement that the husband could be charged with failure to report a crime and concealment of corpses.

The couple's two grown daughters, who are in their 20s, have been questioned, Vaillant said. He refused to provide any further details about them or what they said.

Police sealed the doors, gate and windows of the house where the remains of some of the babies were discovered. DNA tests are being conducted to establish for sure whether the couple are the parents, and autopsies are being conducted on the corpses to try to determine the cause of death.

Recent spate of infanticide cases in France
France has seen a string of cases in recent years of mothers killing their newborns and saving and hiding the corpses.

In one case, Celine Lesage was sentenced in March to 15 years in prison after acknowledging in court that she killed six of her newborns, whose corpses were found in plastic bags in her basement in northwest France.

Another Frenchwoman, Veronique Courjault, was convicted last year of murdering three of her newborn children. Her husband discovered two of the corpses in a freezer while the two were living in South Korea. During the trial psychiatrists testified that she suffered from a psychological condition known as "pregnancy denial."

Germany also has seen similar cases. In one, a woman was convicted of manslaughter in 2006 and sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison for killing eight of her newborn babies and burying them in flower pots and a fish tank in the garden of her parents' home near the German-Polish border.