4 young children and their mother were killed in their French home. The father is in custody
MEAUX, France (AP) — Four children between nine months and 10 years old and their mother were killed in their apartment east of Paris, in what local authorities called an exceptionally violent crime. The children’s father was arrested Tuesday and is the primary suspect.
Neighbors spotted a pool of blood outside the family’s door on Christmas Day and alerted police, who discovered the five bodies, Prosecutor Jean-Baptiste Bladier told reporters in the city of Meaux.
The mother and two daughters, ages 7 and 10, were stabbed several times overnight from Sunday to Monday, he said. The couple’s two sons, ages 9 months and 4-years-old, were suffocated or drowned. The prosecutor described a small, blood-stained apartment in extreme disarray.
Flowers, a stuffed toy and a holiday garland adorned a fence outside the apartment building Tuesday, in honor of the victims. The windows of the apartment were shuttered.
The motive for the killings was unclear. The suspect, a 33-year-old man born in the Paris suburb of Colombes, was arrested Tuesday outside his father’s home northeast of the French capital, the prosecutor said.
“The human toll is horrifying, a whole family was killed, stabbed in an atrocious conditions. It’s an absolute horror,” Meaux Mayor Jean-Francois Cope told The Associated Press.
The suspect had stabbed his partner once before, when she was pregnant with their older son in 2019, but the investigation was dropped because he was declared mentally unsound at the time of the attack, the prosecutor said. The suspect had been placed in a psychiatric hospital in 2017, and also attempted suicide that year, the prosecutor said.
The couple had been together for 14 years and had known each other since high school, Bladier said.
None of the family members’ names were released, according to French law protecting minors who are victims of crimes.
Authorities are opening an investigation into five homicides, and the suspect will undergo psychiatric examination to determine the next steps, the prosecutor said.
The killings rekindled public discussion about domestic violence — more than 100 women have been killed by their current or former partners in France so far this year — and about mental health.
The mayor called for coordinated action to address violence by people with psychiatric problems and to protect victims before it’s too late.
“I recognise the feeling of helplessness in such an event, but on a national level we need to have a deep assessment and rethinking of the consequences of psychiatric troubles on the families of these individuals,” he said.
Neighbours struggled to digest the news.
“It was simply a mother fighting for her children, she was never complaining,” neighbour Maissa Ketfi said. “We all had a big knot in our stomachs when we learned what happened. … We cannot even imagine the scene.”