Court verdict on freezer babies

June 18, 2009 12:00 am

, TOURS, Jun 18 – A French court is set to hand down a verdict on Thursday in the trial of a woman accused of murdering three newborn babies and hiding two corpses in a freezer at her expat home in South Korea.

Prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Veronique Courjault to 10 years in jail after she admitted to smothering her two baby boys at her house in Seoul in 2002 and 2003 and killing a third child born in France in 1999.

The 41-year-old stay-at-home mother fought back tears as she took the stand for a last time on Wednesday after an eight-day trial that has gripped France.

"I killed my children," she said.

"These hearings have allowed me to face up to many things, to ask myself questions. But I have not found any answers. I hope I will."

The trial has focussed on whether Courjault — described as a caring mother to her two sons, now 12 and 14 — suffered from a mental illness when she gave birth alone to the three babies and then killed them.

Mental health experts were called to testify on a little-known condition identified as "pregnancy denial", a deep psychosis in which a woman suffers from a complete lack of awareness of being pregnant.

Courjault faced a maximum life sentence for the triple infanticide, but prosecutors sought 10 years in their closing arguments before the criminal court in Tours, central France.

"Do not demonize Veronique Courjault," prosecutor Philippe Varin told the court after requesting the 10-year jail term. "But do not turn her into an icon either."

Varin argued that she was not suffering from mental illness because she managed to "fool her entire entourage" but acknowledged that many questions remained unanswered in the case.

Already the mother of two young sons, Courjault hid two pregnancies from her husband Jean-Louis after he moved the family to the South Korean capital to take a job as an engineer for the US car parts company Delphi.

Jean-Louis Courjault found the two bodies in the freezer in Seoul in July 2006 after going downstairs to put some fish in the icebox.

"Suddenly, I saw a hand. The baby’s body was wrapped in a towel, in a bag. I didn’t understand a thing," he told the court last week.

The couple at first insisted they had no idea who the infants were, but after DNA tests showed they were the parents, Veronique Courjault admitted to their murder.

His wife has testified that she burned the body of a third baby in the fireplace of their home in France in 1999.

Since his wife’s confession, Courjault has supported her and visited her regularly in jail.

He believes she acted in a state of extreme psychological distress and needs help, not punishment.

Lawyer Marc Morin, who represents the husband, appealed to jurors to show understanding and allow the troubled family to rebuild their lives.

"Don’t forget that the ordeal has been immense for everyone and ask yourselves whether you want to add to this ordeal," he said.

The nine jurors are expected to render a verdict late Thursday.


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