DOUAI, France: French prosecutors on Wednesday called for an 18-year jail term for a housewife on trial for allegedly murdering eight of her children at birth, with most of their corpses found hidden in her garage.
Dominique Cottrez, a 51-year-old former health worker, fought back tears during the hearing in a northern French courtroom.
Though prosecutors asked for 18 years, the allegations carry a possible life prison term.
She is accused of suffocating eight of her babies between 1989 and 2000, shortly after secretly giving birth to them, which in most cases occurred in the bathroom of her home near the Belgian border.
Her path to court began in July 2010 when a new owner moved into the home of Cottrez’s parents in the northern French village of Villers-au-Tertre and unearthed the bodies of two of her infants wrapped in plastic bags buried in the garden.
A resulting police investigation turned up six other tiny corpses in a tank in the garage at Cottrez’s home.
Six more were later found in Cottrez’s own home nearby.
She initially told investigators that she feared the babies were born from a sexual relationship with her father that had taken place from her childhood until his death in 2007.
However, testing showed her husband had fathered the children and she admitted in court she had fabricated the story in order to try to explain the killings.
Cottrez was able to hide the pregnancies from her doctors as well as her husband and two adult daughters in part due to her obesity, with her weighing up to 130 kilos (286 pounds) while pregnant.
“I did all this alone, I admit it,” she told the court, though she added she believed her husband was aware of what was happening.
Magistrate Annelise Cau said the killings were carried out with “determination, awareness, organisation and above all cool-headedness.”
Prosecutor Eric Vaillant said after the hearing that Cottrez needs to go to prison, “so that she realises the absolute horror of the crimes she has committed.”
However, he recognised there were also certain extenuating circumstances in the case including Cottrez’s fragile and highly neurotic nature.
Cottrez’s defence lawyers are to make their final arguments on Thursday before the jury begins its deliberations.