French woman admits killing six newborns

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The Independent Online

A 38-year-old woman yesterday acknowledged killing six of her newborns, whose corpses were found in plastic bags in her basement, at the opening of a trial in northwest France.

Frenchwoman Celine Lesage told a court the children had been born alive. She strangled two and suffocated the others.

Lesage, from Valognes in Normandy, bowed her head and avoided looking at anyone in court while the charges were read. Afterward, she said in a soft voice, "I acknowledge the facts."

She was arrested in 2007 after her partner at the time discovered the corpses in plastic garbage bags in the basement of their apartment building in Valognes.

Her lawyer Veronique Carre said Lesage "does not contest the facts ... but isn't explaining them either." Several medical and psychological experts are expected to testify in the four-day trial.

"We are here to try to understand you before judging you," the judge told Lesage.

She told investigators that the father of five of the children was ex-boyfriend Pascal Catherine, who was detained for questioning after Lesage was arrested in 2007.

She said the father of the sixth was the partner who discovered the corpses, Luc Margueritte.

At the time of her arrest, prosecutor Michel Garrandaux said she described giving birth to the first five alone in the apartment she shared with Catherine, her boyfriend at the time.

Mr Garrandaux said the boyfriend "was far from unaware" of her pregnancies. However, the investigation against him was dropped. He will give evidence as a witness tomorrow.

The prosecution say that when Lesage and boyfriend Catherine split up in 2006, Lesage, who also has a son of 14, moved in with her new boyfriend, and brought the plastic bags from her old basement to her new one.

Her trial for aggravated homicide comes after a more highly-publicised case involving a Frenchwoman convicted last year of murdering three of her newborn children.

Veronique Courjault's husband discovered two of the corpses in a freezer. During the trial psychiatrists testified that she suffered from a psychological condition known as "pregnancy denial."

Germany also has seen a string of 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.