'Fear of doctors' drove mum to kill eight babies
Traumatic first pregnancy stopped nurse seeking contraception
Published 30/07/2010 | 05:00
A French nurse who killed eight of her babies over a 16-year period had a fear of doctors developed after a traumatic first pregnancy.
Dominique Cottrez (45) yesterday admitted the killings as she "didn't want any more children and didn't want to see a doctor about getting a means of contraception".
The public prosecutor said she had suffered a combination of being traumatised about seeing medical staff and embarrassment over being hugely overweight. "The mother knew she was pregnant ... she didn't want any more children and didn't want any doctors involved," said Eric Vaillant.
Mrs Cottrez appeared before a judge yesterday and was remanded in custody facing charges of "voluntary homicide of a minor under the age of 15", which carries a maximum term of life imprisonment.
Her husband, Pierre-Marie Cottrez, a 47-year-old carpenter, was allowed to walk free under judicial control. Mrs Cottrez, who has two surviving daughters in their 20s, admitted suffocating her other children after birth and burying them in plastic bags between 1989 to 2005 in the worst case of infanticide in French history.
She disposed of the first two newborns in the couple's former home in Villers-au-Tertre, a sleepy village 125 miles north of Paris, and another six under a heating fuel tank in the garage of their current property.
She insisted her husband knew nothing about the pregnancies or the killings.
Mr Cottrez, a respected municipal councillor who denied any knowledge of the deaths, was said to be "shocked and bewildered". Police made the macabre discovery after new owners of the couple's former property unearthed two tiny bodies while planting a tree last week. Detectives soon found the remaining six corpses.
Mrs Cottrez apparently managed to hide her pregnancies because of her heavy build -- she is thought to weigh around 20 stone.
In previous infanticide cases in France some defendants claimed they were in denial about their pregnancies and not fully responsible for their actions, but the local prosecutor said Mrs Cottrez had admitted to being "perfectly aware" of her condition.
Eight small candles were placed outside the couple's modest home last night, where police had sealed the doors, gate and windows.
Standing outside, locals struggled to come to terms with the tragedy. "I'm thinking of all the children in the world," the local priest, Fr Robert Meignotte, said. "I'm thinking of all the children who didn't ask to be born and were thrown out a few hours later."
His dismay was shared by many in the 620-strong community, who described Mrs Cottrez and her husband as "nice people, discreet, who never caused any trouble".
"We're really in a state of shock," said one woman who lives in a house across the road from the couple. "They're people that we like a lot."
Patrick Mercier, the village mayor, said that Mr Cottrez was an upstanding member of the council in Villers-au-Tertre, a 620-strong community.
"He used to volunteer in the community. He's a respectable man," said the mayor. Mrs Cottrez was more withdrawn, he added.
DNA tests were being conducted to ensure the couple were the parents, and post-mortem examinations were also being carried out.
France has seen a string of infanticide cases in recent years. (©Daily Telegraph, London)