Sat, Oct 14, 2006 - Page 6 News List

French woman questioned over multiple infanticides

AP , TOURS, FRANCE

Jean-Louis Courjault, left, and his wife Veronique, center, answer reporters as their lawyer Marc Morin looks on during a press conference in Tours, western France, in August. French judicial authorities launched a murder investigation on Thursday targeting Veronique Courjault who, according to police, said during questioning that she killed three of her children. Two of her newborns were found dead in a freezer at the family residence in Seoul, South Korea, where she and her husband had been living since 2002.

PHOTO: AP

French judicial authorities officially launched a murder investigation on Thursday against a woman who, according to police, said that she had killed three of her children in family homes.

Two of her newborns were found dead in a freezer at the family residence in Seoul, South Korea, where she and her husband had been living since 2002. Police said the woman, Veronique Courjault, also told investigators that she killed another child she bore in 1999 in France and burned the body in the fireplace of the home.

After two days of police questioning, authorities formally placed her under investigation -- one step short of filing charges -- on Thursday on suspicion of murder, prosecutor Philippe Varin announced.

Her husband, Jean-Louis, was placed under investigation for complicity in murder but, unlike his wife, allowed to go free, Varin said.

The husband was unaware of the murders, according to his lawyer, Marc Morin.

"He was overwhelmed and only said that he loves his wife," Morin said.

The couple has two sons, aged nine and 11.

Three police officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation, said Veronique Courjault confessed to three infanticides, the first in 1999 in France and two others in 2002 in Seoul.

The couple submitted to DNA testing twice after the two babies were found in their house in Seoul. Both tests showed they were the parents.

On Thursday, she then alleged she had killed an earlier infant, the police said.

One of the officials, who was closely involved in the case, said Courjault told investigators that she strangled the two infants found dead in the freezer in her Seoul residence.

She said she also killed another baby she gave birth to in 1999 in France and that she incinerated the body in the fireplace of their home at the time in Charente-Maritime, said the police official in Tours, western France. In each case, she gave birth to her babies secretly at home, according to the police accounts.

It remained unclear whether her husband knew that his wife had been pregnant. His wife has said he was unaware and that she was able to hide her pregnancies because she gained little apparent weight and her husband traveled abroad frequently, one police officer close to the investigation said.

The couple had previously strongly denied that the babies in the freezer, discovered in July, were theirs.

Jean-Louis Courjault was the one who alerted police to the presence of the babies in the freezer.

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