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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 18:48 GMT 19:48 UK
Mother admits raping her children
Courtroom in Saint-Omer, northern France, where 17 people are being tried for child rape and torture
The case has shocked and outraged public opinion in France
A mother-of-four at the centre of a child rape case in northern France involving 18 children has confessed in court to raping her own children.

The 37-year-old cried as she made her admission, adding that she had been raped as a child by her father.

She is one of 17 adults on trial for the alleged assaults, which took place over five years in the northern town of Outreau.

Fourteen of the defendants, aged 24 to 67, deny any involvement.

Neighbours involved

On the second day of the trial, which has shocked France, the woman said: "I became an adult at the age of eight when my father raped me. I raped my own children."

"It's so hard. I don't understand why I did what I did," AFP news agency quoted her as saying in court.

Some of the 100 witnesses outside the Saint-Omer courthouse where 17 people face trial for child rape and torture
Hundreds of witnesses are due to appear in court

She described her husband as an alcoholic who would kick her and beat her with his fists, AFP reported.

When asked why she did not leave him, she told the court: "I couldn't... things had gone too far."

She previously told police she had raped 11 of the 18 children involved, aged three to 12 at the time.

The six women and 11 men on trial have also been charged with "rape with torture" and "rape with barbaric acts". Some of their own children were named as victims.

The case came to the attention of prosecutors in December 2000, when social services alerted them to the possible sexual abuse committed by an unemployed couple against their own four children, AFP said.

The children, once they had been placed in foster care, told investigators they had been fondled, raped, coerced into performing sex acts and forced to watch pornographic films.

The children named other individuals involved, some of them neighbours.

Police seized sex toys and pornographic videos from the family apartment where the illicit sex sessions allegedly took place.

In 2001, other members of the alleged ring, including a bailiff and his wife, a taxi driver and a priest, were placed under investigation.

Twenty people were initially arrested in connection with the alleged paedophile network.

One suspect committed suicide while in detention, while another was declared unfit for trial.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.




SEE ALSO:
Child rape trial opens in France
04 May 04  |  Americas
Country profile: France
21 Apr 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: France
30 Mar 04  |  Country profiles



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