France arrests man over murder of wife and four children

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French police on Tuesday arrested a 33-year-old man suspected of murdering his wife and their four children who were found dead at home on Christmas Day, a prosecutor said.

Authorities discovered the bodies of the 35-year-old and her children - aged nine months, four, seven and 10 years old - in their flat in the town of Meaux east of Paris on Monday evening, after worried friends and family sounded the alarm, local prosecutor Jean-Baptiste Bladier said.

The French man, who trained as a plumber, had already been detained in 2019 after trying to kill himself and stabbing his partner in the shoulder blade when she was pregnant with their third child, but she had refused to press charges, Bladier said.

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Documents found in their home indicated he had been receiving psychiatric treatment since 2017.

The couple, who had met in high school, had their four children before they married in October, he said.

Police broke in through a bedroom window of their ground-floor flat to find a “very violent crime scene” covered in blood, the prosecutor said.

A police source said the mother was lying in the corridor, while the children were found dead in their rooms, in the kitchen and bathroom.

“The mother and the two girls had received a very high number of knife wounds,” the prosecutor said.

The two younger boys presented no stab wounds and could have been suffocated.

‘Depression’

The suspect, who was arrested near his father’s home in the neighboring town of Sevran on Tuesday morning, had not yet been questioned but told police “he knew why he had been detained, and spoke of his unhappiness and depression,” Bladier said.

He was receiving medical care for wounds to his hand.

Neighbors told police they had heard cries downstairs in the night of December 24 to 25.

An inquiry has been opened into the murder of minors, and murder by a partner. Autopsies were to be carried out in Paris on Wednesday.

The Paris region has recently seen a series of infanticides.

In late November, a 41-year-old man confessed to killing his three daughters, aged four to 11, and turned himself in.

Police found them dead in his home in the town of Alfortville, in the southeastern suburbs of the capital.

A month earlier, in October, a gendarme killed his three daughters before killing himself at his home in Vemars, northeast of the capital.

On average, a woman is killed every three days in France. Some 118 women were killed by their partner or ex-partner in France last year.

Police registered 244,300 victims of domestic violence, mostly women, in 2022. That was 15-percent increase compared to the previous year, in what rights groups believe is a sign law enforcement is better taking their word into account.

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