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Baby kept in car trunk ‘since birth’: France stunned by parental cruelty

Published time: October 28, 2013 15:54
Edited time: October 30, 2013 08:33
A couple who kept their newborn child locked in the trunk of a car for presumably over a year are escorted by police into a court in Brive-la-Gaillarde, on October 28, 2013. (AFP Photo/Eric Porte)

A couple who kept their newborn child locked in the trunk of a car for presumably over a year are escorted by police into a court in Brive-la-Gaillarde, on October 28, 2013. (AFP Photo/Eric Porte)

France is in shock after the “imagination-defying” discovery of an infant girl who was kept in the trunk of a car by her parents for about a year and a half since birth.

The girl was naked and dehydrated when she was found and rescued by the mechanics at a garage in the town of Terrasson, southwestern France, on Friday.

The workers told TF1 television they had been alarmed by moans and the strong smell of excrement coming from the trunk of a Peugeot 307.

The woman in her 40s who brought the car in for repairs tried to calm them down by saying that the strange noises were made by electronic toys that had just been switched on.

However, the mechanics weren’t satisfied, and opened the trunk to see a small girl inside a basket.

She was conscious, but in a very filthy condition and seemed to have a fever, the workers said.  

“I felt that the baby needed air, that she was going to suffocate,” one of the mechanics said.

An ambulance was immediately called to the scene, rushing the infant girl to a nearby hospital in Brive-la-Gaillarde.

The doctors at the clinic where the baby is being cared for said that her age was between 15 months and two years old.

“The infant doesn’t have the right size or weight for her age, she is psychologically delayed, and she displays a mentality and behavior that don’t conform to her age,” said Jean-Pierre Laffitte, the local social prosecutor. “The baby was hidden from all points of view, apparently since birth. It’s a situation that defies imagination.” 

A picture taken on October 28, 2013 in Terrasson, central France, shows the garage where a child was found by mechanics in the truck of a car three days before. (AFP Photo)  

However, the prosecutor said that the little girl didn’t appear to have suffered from physical violence, rather a chronic lack of care.

The police detained the baby’s parents the same day, with the father reported to be heavily drunk at the time of the arrest.

The couple, who remain in custody, may now face up to 10 years in prison for cruelty toward their child.

But the prosecutor said it was too early to reach conclusions, as there were still too many questions in this case the investigators needed to answer. 

The girl’s 45-year-old mother, named only as Rose-Marie, and her father, a 40-year-old man who used to work as a mason, but is currently unemployed – came from Portugal, but lived in Brignac-la-Plaine in Correze, south-central France. 

A DNA test has proven that the man and women are the baby’s biological parents.  
The couple have three other children – two boys and a girl – of four, nine and 10 years, whom they raised at home, reportedly in normal conditions. 

Just like their little sister, they’ll now be taken care of by the social services. 

A picture taken on October 28, 2013 in Brignac-la-plaine, central France, shows the house of a couple who kept their newborn child locked in the trunk of a car for presumably over a year. (AFP Photo)

Meanwhile, the father has denied any involvement in the baby’s mistreatment, saying that he was unaware that he had a fourth child until Friday’s discovery.

French media have speculated that for some reason the woman wanted to hide her pregnancy and birth from her husband, as the baby’s birth was never registered.

The family’s neighbors at Brignac-la-Plaine were also shocked by the news, saying they had no idea a baby was hidden in the trunk of a car at a nearby parking lot.

“We had the impression that this woman lived in her car. She never left it,”
one of the neighbors told Le Parisien.

"But we couldn't see what she was doing in the boot,"
he said, adding that the woman frequently used cardboard and blankets to cover the car.

Another neighbor – a pensioner, who lives opposite the couple’s home – said that they led an isolated life.

“We didn’t have much contact with them. [The mother] barely said hello, and they didn’t really want to integrate into the neighborhood. How could we have known?” he told the paper.