Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 12:09 UK

France 'freezer baby' case begins

Court sketch of Veronique Courjault.
Veronique Courjault is accused of killing three of her newborn babies

A Frenchwoman accused of killing three of her own babies and hiding two of them in a freezer has gone on trial in Tours, in central France.

Veronique Courjault covered her face as she arrived at the court, and looked frail and anxious in the dock.

She has already confessed to killing two newborn babies at her expatriate home in South Korea, after DNA tests revealed they were her children.

She later admitted killing another child in France in 1999.

The judges have to decide whether she knew what she was doing or whether she had a psychological disorder. She could be sentenced to life in prison.

Mrs Courjault's husband, Jean-Louis, said he was unaware she was even pregnant and has been cleared of any involvement.

He has steadfastly stood by his wife, visiting her regularly in prison, where she has spent three years in pre-trial detention.

Grisly tale

Mr Courjault told the AFP news agency outside the courtroom: "I am very, very tense. I am here to support the woman I love."

The grisly tale of infanticide has gripped France for the last three years, after Mr Courjault, who was working in Seoul as an engineer, first alerted South Korean police to the two corpses he found in his freezer.

Jean-Louis Courjault (L) speaks with his lawyer Marc Morin (9 June 2009)
Mrs Courjault's husband Jean-Louis (L) has been cleared of any involvement

After questioning him and taking a sample of his DNA, the police allowed him to join his wife in France, where she was on holiday with their two young sons, aged nine and 11.

Initially the couple claimed they had no idea who the babies were.

But after DNA tests revealed they were their own sons, Mrs Courjault confessed she had given birth alone and then suffocated the two infants in Korea, in 2002 and 2003.

She also said she had killed another new-born baby she had given birth to in 1999 while they were still living in France. She said she had strangled it and burned its body in the chimney of their house.

Investigators say Mr Courjault was frequently away on business, and his wife successfully managed to hide each pregnancy from him.

Following Mrs Courjault's admission, the police in South Korea requested that she and her husband return to the country for further questioning. However, the couple refused and instead left themselves at the mercy of the French legal system, with which they were much more comfortable dealing.

Despite signing a judicial co-operation pact with South Korea, France does not normally extradite its citizens. Seoul dropped its objection when French prosecutors charged Mrs Courjault with murder.

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