Baby killings: mum acted alone

A MOTHER has admitted murdering eight babies at birth, saying she didn’t want any more children and a fear of doctors had stopped her seeking contraception.

Nursing assistant Dominique Cottrez, 45, faces life in prison if convicted of France’s worst infanticide in recent memory.

But her lawyer said she was relieved the secret was out.

“She doesn’t have to carry this on her conscience any more, and that’s a kind of relief,” Frank Berton told reporters, adding that she was “tired, worn out and battered down” after her questioning.

Her husband, Pierre-Marie Cottrez, 47, a carpenter and local councillor, was released by prosecutors after saying he had not been aware of the pregnancies or the bodies in plastic bags in the family garden and garage in Villers-au-Tertre, in the north of France.

“The sky has fallen on his head,” said state prosecutor Eric Vaillant.

Ms Cottrez said she had hidden the births from her husband over almost 20 years. Detectives said this was plausible given her size — she is reported to weigh 130kg.

“Her only explanation is that she did not want to have any more children and did not want to see a doctor about contraception,” Mr Vaillant said. “She said she had a very bad experience the first time she gave birth.”

The couple have two daughters, 21 and 22, and were liked in the village, where Ms Cottrez’s parents and grandparents lived.

But last Saturday the man who bought the farmhouse where Ms Cottrez’s parents lived until 2007 discovered bones in plastic bags when he dug in the garden.

When forensic scientists determined that the remains were of two newborn babies, Ms Cottrez admitted under questioning they were hers. She went on to say that six more bodies were hidden in the garage of a house on the far side of the village into which she had moved with her husband in 1991.

Officers found the remains in four sealed bags under other objects. There was no smell of decomposing flesh and Mr Cottrez apparently never checked the contents, investigators said.

Mr Vaillant said the babies had been born between 1989 and 2006 or 2007, and that Ms Cottrez had told police she had suffocated them within minutes of their births. She gave birth at home alone each time without medical help. “This is an out-of-the-ordinary case given the number of newborns,” Mr Vaillant said.

“We are trying to understand what happened.”

Nextdoor neighbour Janique Kaszynski said: “It’s revolting. It’s monstrous. For me . . . they aren’t human beings. It’s monstrous to have killed eight viable babies.”

DNA tests are being conducted to ascertain that the couple are the parents and post-mortem examinations are being carried out to determine the cause of death. Mr Vaillant said the bodies showed no sign of injuries.

Unlike Veronique Courjault, a French mother found guilty of killing three newborn babies last year, Ms Cottrez does not appear to suffer from the syndrome of pregnancy denial.

“She said she was perfectly aware of her pregnancies and perfectly aware of what she was doing,” Mr Vaillant said.

Mrs Cottrez has yet to undergo psychiatric tests. If it is found that she was not responsible for her acts she will not face trial.

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