Confession in dead babies case

Lawyer Marc Morin said Veronique Courjault “has admitted to the allegations made against her”, thus reversing nearly three months of denials that she was the mother of the dead newborns.

The lawyer did not give details about his client’s confession, nor address suspicions made by South Korean authorities that Courjault was guilty of killing the two babies.

“She takes responsibility and she asserts she acted alone,” he limited himself to telling reporters in front of the police station in the central west French town of Tours, where Courjault was being detained.

He said Courjault, 39, and her husband, Jean-Louis Courjault, 40, had a “feeling of relief” following the confession. The husband, he said, “was in a state of shock … he was never aware of what happened”.

French authorities have not as yet placed Veronique Courjault or her spouse under criminal investigation in the case.

They have, however, started a preliminary inquiry at the behest of South Korean authorities who have reportedly issued a summons for the Courjaults.

The couple were taken into custody late yesterday and interrogated overnight after a French DNA test confirmed earlier South Korean DNA tests that they were the parents of the two babies.

The corpses of the newborns were found wrapped in plastic bags in the freezer of the couple’s home in Sorae, just south of Seoul, on July 23.

Jean-Louis Courjault, who worked in South Korea for a US car parts company, raised the alarm and, after initial questioning by South Korean police, was allowed to join his wife and their two children, aged 10 and 11, on holiday in France.

There, they continued to insist they were not the parents of the dead babies.

As evidence piled up contradicting their version, the two called a media conference in August and said they would not be returning to South Korea because they believed they were the targets of a “media lynching” there.

They remained at their house near Tours while French officials cooperated with their South Korean counterparts to look into the case.

Even when the results of the French DNA test became known, the couple continued to insist they had nothing to do with the babies.

“We maintain that we are not the parents of those babies and we will do everything to prove that, even if this new piece of information now makes the battle more difficult,” Jean-Louis
Courjault told the newspaper Le Figaro just hours before he was taken into detention Tuesday.

On Wednesday he was taken by police to his French house where a warranted search took place, and officers were seen leaving with a seized computer.

South Korean authorities have said they strongly suspect a case of infanticide.

Two DNA tests carried out in South Korea after the grisly find showed the Courjaults were the parents of the dead babies.

One of the tests used tissue left over from surgery Veronique Courjault underwent in December 2003.

An unexplained infection required her to have an ablation of her uterus — a procedure one step removed from a hysterectomy that should render the patient sterile. That suggested that she gave birth to the babies prior to that date.

The latest French DNA test, which was carried out at the end of September and whose results were known just days ago, confirmed that the babies were the Courjaults’.

“It is 99.9 percent certain that the Courjaults are the parents of the deceased infants,” French prosecutor Philippe Varin told a news conference in tours on Tuesday.

“The couple’s version does not correspond to the scientific findings,” he said.

He added that indications were that the babies, boys weighing 3.2kg and 3.6kg, were probably born alive.

Le Figaro quoted Seo Joong-seok, a South Korean forensic examiner at the institute holding the corpses, as saying that while there were no obvious indications of the cause of death, “I am convinced that these children were the victims of infanticide.”

Under French law, the Courjaults can be held until late tomorrow before a decision has to be made to release them or place them under criminal investigation.

France and South Korea have a cooperation agreement for crime investigations but have not signed an extradition treaty.