Women sentenced in trials that gripped France

In one, a mother murdered three of her babies, hid two of the bodies in a freezer and burned the other, without her family knowing she was ever pregnant. In the second, a rich businessman in a flesh-coloured latex body suit was shot dead by his lover in what she said was a crime of passion.

In the culmination of a three-year saga, Veronique Courjault, 41, was sentenced to eight years in prison for the murders of three of her children while they were babies between 1999 and 2006. Prosecutors had requested only 10 years, because of Courjault’s emotional state.

Courjault’s crimes came to light in July 2006 in South Korea, where she was then living with her husband, Jean-Louis, an engineer for a car-parts company, and their two teenage sons. While his wife and the two sons were on vacation in France, Jean-Louis discovered the bodies of two babies when he went to put fish in freezer.

Jean-Louis, who denied any knowledge of the murders, and even that his wife had been pregnant, was allowed to join his wife and sons in France after providing a DNA sample that proved that the couple were the parents of the babies. Jean-Louis was never charged.

Courjault confessed to the killings in October, eliminating that element of mystery from the trial but leaving one that figured prominently in the defence and in kitchen table conversations around France: How was Courjault able to hide three pregnancies from her family?

The answer, provided by a string of experts, was a neurosis called pregnancy denial.
“I was conscious that I was pregnant,” Courjault testified. “But all of a sudden I wasn’t anymore. It was lost.” She added, “If there was a dissimulation, it was first inside of me.”
Marie-Pierre, a journalist who covered the trial, said the public perception of Courjault quickly changed. “She went from being seen as a monster to being seen as a victim of her own self,” Courtellemont said.

Sex play murder

In the other case, Cecile Brossard, 40, facing a maximum 10-year sentence, was given eight-and-a-half years for the murder during sadomasochistic sex play of Edouard Stern, the heir to a French banking fortune. Stern, who was 50 at the time of his murder in 2005, was found shot four times in his house in Geneva.

Brossard met Stern in 2002. Their torrid affair ended in early 2005, when Brossard asked her lover for $1 million “as a gesture of love.” Stern accepted but then changed his mind. Brossard said on the night of the murder, Stern asked her to tie him to a chair. She said she lost control and shot him when he told her, “One million dollars is a lot of money for a prostitute.” The court rejected her defence of a crime of passion. But she said, “You can question me for hours. I’ll never say I loved him for his money.”

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