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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 14:58 GMT
Climbie killer disrupts inquiry
Kouao was forced to attend the inquiry
Kouao claims she was made to look like "a monster"
The woman who killed eight-year-old Victoria Climbie has refused to answer questions during her dramatic appearance at the inquiry into the child's death.

Marie Therese Kouao, 44, who was ordered to appear in person at the inquiry after refusing to give written evidence, has been protesting her innocence.

She launched into a screaming rant, saying she had never harmed the child and was being made to look like a "monster".

I loved that little girl - she was my daughter in my heart

Marie Therese Kouao
Victoria's parents Berthe and Francis Climbie, who are attending the inquiry in south London, have attacked Kouao for not apologising for their daughter's death and for telling lies.

It is believed to be the first time a convicted killer has been let out of prison to appear at a public inquiry into their victim's death.

Kouao - jailed for life last year along with her boyfriend for murdering Victoria - accused the inquiry of not being interested in getting to the truth and reiterated she had done nothing wrong.

It quickly became clear that Kouao would not respond to questions from inquiry counsel Neil Garnham QC.


French-speaking Kouao abandoned her translator and appeared volatile, verging on hysterical.

At times shouting and gesticulating, she made a series of allegations about how Victoria - who Kouao and Manning called Anna - came by her injuries.

"I loved that little girl. She was my daughter in my heart," she said.
Victoria and her great-aunt Kouao
Kouao systematically abused Victoria

More than 128 separate injuries caused by months of abuse were found on the little girl's body when she died in February 2000.

Kouao and Carl Manning, 28, who had beaten, starved and tied Victoria in a binbag in the bath, were convicted of her murder and jailed for life in January 2001.

Victoria, who was her great niece, already had marks on her body before she left Africa, Kouao told the inquiry.

Later she said the marks had appeared on the girl's body after her death.

Horrific photographs showing extensive burns on Victoria's face were "faked", an emotional Kouao screamed as she ignored warnings by Mr Garnham that she was legally obliged to answer questions.

She accused people in England of conspiring against her.

"People are there to put everything on me to make me become a monster," she said.

No apology

She went on: "I am a very good mum. I am a mum and I am a grandma. I know how to love children. I know how to care for children. I have proof I was loving that small girl."

Inquiry chairman Lord Laming intervened but Kouao insisted she would not answer direct questions from Mr Garnham.

I don't believe she loved my daughter or us - If she had then my daughter would be here now

Berthe Climbie

The inquiry was adjourned to give Mr Garnham a chance to talk to Kouao's solicitor.

Mrs Climbie said she had found it extremely difficult being close to Kouao in the inquiry room.

But she added that her main resentment against her "was not for the crime she had done, but for the lies she has been telling to the inquiry".

Victoria's parents, Francis and Berthe Climbié
Victoria's parents travelled from Ivory Coast for the inquiry
"I don't believe she loved my daughter or us. If she had loved us then my daughter would be here now," she said.

Mr Climbie complained that Kouao had not apologised to them and also about her lack of sensitivity towards them.

He also rejected suggestions by Kouao that the couple were not married, saying they had actually been married three times.

Their solicitor, Imran Khan, said that so far the inquiry had been a lost opportunity for Kouao because she had not taken the chance to tell the truth.

He condemned the authorities for not picking up on Kouao's behaviour.

"Her nature should have been obvious to anyone who spent even a few minutes with her," he said.

The BBC's Alison Holt
"It has been an extraordinary day"
Professor Judith Masson, Warwick University
"We have to create a proper regulated system"
Climbie family solicitor Imran Khan
"It has been a distressing day for the family"

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08 Jan 02 | England
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