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Dad accused of killing son (3) in washing machine

A FRENCH father has been charged with murder after allegedly killing his son (3) by stuffing him into a washing machine and turning it on.

The man, identified in reports as Christophe Champenois (33), was charged with "murder of a minor" late on Sunday in Meaux near Paris, court officials said.

The boy's mother was charged with failing to prevent a crime and failing to assist a person in danger.

Both were held without bail.

A source connected with the case said the child appeared to have died from "a blow to the head".

Neighbours said the boy, Bastien, died on Friday after his father put him naked in the washing machine to punish him for getting into trouble at nursery school.

A neighbour, who gave her name only as Alice, said that she had seen the boy's body after his mother had come for help.

"I took the little boy in my arms, he was frozen, completely naked. He was all white, limp, practically like a toy," said Alice, who lives in the same apartment building as the couple in Germiny L'Eveque, a town of 1,300 people.

Alice said the boy's mother had attempted to resuscitate him with heart massage but failed.

A source connected with the inquiry said the man was denying the charges and asserting that the boy had fallen down the stairs.

But witness testimony and tests on the body were "consistent with the fact that the child was put into a washing machine", the source said, adding that the boy had been repeatedly abused, including by being locked up for hours in a cupboard.

A local official, Christine Boubet, said social services had assisted the family since 2006 "for social and psychological distress".

Since the end of the school holidays earlier this month, Bastien's school, parents and sister had noticed a change in the boy's behaviour as he was more "disturbed, careless and a problem for his parents," Boubet said.