Irish Times

February 15, 2002

Irish baby's death leads to French inquiry

From Lara Marlowe, in Paris
Irish Times

An Irish couple were to be formally placed under judicial investigation last night for the murder of their newborn baby boy on the French Côte d'Azur on February 12th.

The public prosecutor in Grasse, in the south of France, Mr Raymond Doumas, asked a magistrate to put the mother, a 21-year-old Irish woman who lives in Luxembourg, under investigation for the voluntary homicide of a child under the age of 15.

"We believe the infant died because he was killed," Mr Doumas told The Irish Times.

"We think he was suffocated. The autopsy showed that the child was born alive and viable. Regarding suffocation, the pathological analysis is under way, and we'll be absolutely certain in three or four days, but it is very likely."

The prosecutor said that French law made no distinction between voluntary homicide and premeditated murder.

Both could lead to life imprisonment. "The aggravating circumstance is that it was committed against a child under the age of 15," he added.

The woman's companion, a 35- year-old teacher from Dublin, was taken before a magistrate at the courthouse in Grasse late yesterday.

The prosecutor asked that he be placed under investigation for failing to assist a person in danger - the dead infant - and for failing to denounce a crime.

He was to start pre-trial detention in Grasse jail last night. The prosecutor asked that the Irishman hire a lawyer, in addition to the court-appointed counsel.

The couple are not married and do not live together. "They are both from Dublin," the prosecutor said.

"But she lives in Luxembourg. They met often. They travelled together as far as Paris and then from Paris to Nice."

The couple arrived in Théoule, near Cannes, on Monday evening. Police found the dead baby wrapped in a hotel towel and a plastic bag and hidden behind a curtain in a corridor on Tuesday morning.

The woman was to be notified last night that she will be held in pre-trial detention in hospital.

"She had a physical and psychological shock, but she is a stable person," the prosecutor said.

Asked about motive, Mr Doumas said: "There is certainly a motive when a woman kills her baby.

"On a human level, it's delicate. I cannot say more than that." Being mis en examen, or placed under judicial investigation, falls short of formal charges and does not necessarily lead to prosecution.

If the couple are charged and tried, their case will be heard by a jury in an assize court.

The woman would risk life imprisonment, and the man a maximum of 10 years.

Mr Doumas said that in similar cases French juries usually passed less than the maximum sentence, between eight and 12 years for the murder of the infant and several years for the person who failed to intervene.

© The Irish Times

© 2001