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‘Freezer baby’ mother gets 8 years jail

Jurors have sentenced a French woman to eight years in jail for killing three of her newborn babies, burning one corpse and hiding the others in a freezer.

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Prosecutors had called for a 10-year sentence for Veronique Courjault, after she admitted to smothering two baby boys to death at her expat home in South Korea in 2002 and 2003, and a third child born in France in 1999.

The 41-year-old, who has served three years in pre-trial detention, betrayed no emotion as the verdict was read out in the central city of Tours on Thursday, at the close of an eight-day trial that has gripped France.

The high-profile case focused on whether Courjault — described as a caring mother to her two living sons, now 12 and 14 — suffered from a mental illness when she gave birth alone to the three babies and then killed them.

Courjault, who kept the three pregancies hidden from her husband and entire family, had faced a maximum life sentence for the triple infanticide, but prosecutors finally sought 10 years.

“Do not demonise Veronique Courjault,” prosecutor Philippe Varin told the jury. “But do not turn her into an icon either.”

Mental health experts were called at the trial to testify on a little-known condition identified as “pregnancy denial”, a deep disorder in which a woman suffers from a complete lack of awareness of being pregnant.

Varin argued that she was not suffering from denial, saying she managed to “fool her entire entourage”, but acknowledged that many questions remained unanswered in the case.

Courjault’s husband Jean-Louis, who discovered the two corpses in the family freezer in 2006, has supported his wife since her confession and insisted throughout the trial she needs psychiatric help, not punishment.

Defence lawyers had appealed to jurors to show understanding in their verdict and allow the troubled family to rebuild their lives.

“This woman committed a mistake, a crime, but she is not a monster,” said lawyer Henri Leclerc in his closing arguments.

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