The number of newborns in France killed within 24 hours of birth is at least five times higher than official statistics suggest, according to a new study profiling the mothers who commit such crimes.
Murder of newborns made headlines worldwide earlier this year when a French woman, Dominique Cottrez, admitted killing eight of her offspring. This and other cases raised questions as to how rare the practice was.
Anne Tursz and Jon Cook of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research near Paris examined court records in 26 judicial districts in France for 1996 to 2000, covering a third of all births during that period in metropolitan France.
The number of cases of neonaticide — the murder of infants within a day of being born — corresponded to a rate of 2.1 per 100,000 births, or 5.4 times the official rate of 0.39 cases per 100,000 births. Over the five-year period, the study uncovered 27 cases in the regions examined.
Even this new tally “is certainly vastly under-estimated,” Turz said.
“It must be on the order of about 100 [deaths] per year,” with most of the bodies never found, she said.
Previous calculations were based solely on death certificates.