A COUPLE who saw no escape from their growing debt mountain plotted to poison their five children then commit suicide in the hope that the family would be reunited "in a better world".
Patricia and Emmanuel Cartier were lured deeper into debt by easy credit and reckless spending, a court in Beauvais, north of Paris, heard yesterday.
By the time they had decided on murder and suicide, they had 17 credits cards - six of which had been cancelled by the issuers - and an assortment of loans, owing a total of more than ?234,000.
But only one of the children, 11-year-old Alicia, died. The doses of insulin administered to two brothers and two sisters in August 2002, and by their mother to herself, proved too weak to kill, while Alicia's father's attempts to slash his wrists left him with no more than scratches.
Patricia Cartier, a care worker, was in tears as she told the court that she injected insulin taken from the old people's home where she worked into each of the children. She had used the last of the family's money to buy new clothes so that the children would be "nicely dressed when they reached the other side".
Mrs Cartier (44), said that after cash dispensing machines began to retain their cards her husband had suggested that they should commit suicide. "But I said, 'Who will look after the children?'. I wanted to go with them, so that we would all be asleep together."
After giving insulin to the children, then aged from 11 months to 13, she injected herself twice. She panicked when Alicia developed breathing problems and called an ambulance. She died three weeks later.
The court heard that the Cartiers, both struggling in poorly paid jobs, juggled debts between a succession of credit companies as they splashed out on electrical goods and clothing.
Emmanuel Cartier (37) and his wife face life imprisonment for murder and attempted murder when the verdicts are announced today. The couple's lawyer, Hubert Delarue, is appealing for clemency, saying that they were driven to desperation. The couple, described by a psychiatrist as "immature, emotionally insecure and depressed", had combined earnings of about ?2,634 a month. As the couple went on trial, there was no sign that their surviving children had come to terms with their parents' actions. Mederic, now 16, and his nine-year-old sister Mathilde had agreed to confront their parents, having refused to see them for three years.
But one report spoke of a "dreadful face-to-face encounter between parents searching for the least sign of love and a boy and a girl visibly disinclined to forgive". The trial continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)