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French parents guilty of torturing 8-year-old daughter to death

FRENCH parents accused of dumping their 8-year-old daughter's body in a concrete container in 2009, were found guilty of torturing her to death.

A jury in the northern French region of la Sarthe convicted Virginie Darras, 33, and Eric Sabatier, 40, of violently beating, humiliating and torturing their daughter Marina, as she is referred to, from 2003 until her death at age 8 in 2009.

The couple was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum 20-year sentence for barbaric acts of torture leading to the death of a minor, as well as misleading police about the deceased girl's whereabouts.

The father of Marina – a child who was initially believed to have mild Down's syndrome because of old facial injuries due to beatings – first told police his daughter had disappeared on September 9th 2009, but two days later he led authorities to a concrete container in which he had hidden the girl's body.

The night before she died on August 6th-7th, both parents had beaten and tortured Marina, forcing her to eat salt and vinegar, plunging her in cold water and leaving her crouched in the cellar where she often slept.

When the parents found her naked body the next day, they temporarily hid her in a freezer. The corpse was later found encased in a sheet and covered with concrete in a container surrounded by garbage bins in a warehouse in Le Mans, northern France.

On several occasions, Marina's school teachers had alerted authorities to look into a possible case of child abuse, but the girl protected her parents when questioned in the presence of the father in one notable 2008 interview.

A jury was able to view a video of that questioning during the 11-day trial, which included testimony from a psychological expert who said Marina had become the object of her parents' emotional troubles, and "absorbed the couple's conflict".

Before the verdict was announced on Tuesday, Mrs Darras – who first abandoned Marina when she was born, and then went back to claim her – told the court: "Marina, I loved you until the day you left. I neglected, humiliated you to the point of torture. And you loved us to the point of protecting us. I don't deserve any forgiveness, especially not yours, Marina." The verdict is not likely to be appealed.

At least two associations for the protection of children has filed an official complaint to look into where local public children's social services failed Marina.

"This trial must lead to progress in the protection of children," said Vanina Padovani, a lawyer representing the "Blue Child" association