Parents who claimed their disabled daughter had been kidnapped are charged with her Child abuse (with bruises) and murder (cut to pieces)
13th September 2009
The parents of an eight-year-old schoolgirl have been charged with murder after beating her to death and hiding her corpse in a trunk load of cement because she was ‘greedy’.
The Mafia-style disposal of the body of Marina Sabatier, from the French city of Le Mans, followed months of abuse by Eric Sabatier, 37, and his partner Virginie Darras, 30.
Prosecutors today told how they initially claimed she had been abducted from the family car while Sabatier went to buy burgers at McDonalds.
The fake kidnapping made headlines across France until Friday, when Sabatier claimed they had found Marina dead six weeks ago and hidden her body in panic.
But on Saturday both he and Darras confessed to beating her to death.
As well as murder, they were charged with a variety of other offences including abduction and violence against a minor. Both face life imprisonment.
State prosecutor Chantal Moulin-Bernard said Sabatier, a removals man, and his partner had four other children from previous relationships. Marina came in for especially cruel treatment because she had mild Down’s Syndrome, and was often underfed.
‘They beat Marina in an especially brutal manner, mainly because she was greedy and always asking for food,’ said Mrs Moulin-Bernard.
‘The child was locked in a cellar one night, and was found inanimate in the morning. The body was initially hidden in a deep freeze at another site, before being put in a trunk which was filled with cement.’
It was found in store room of the company where Sabatier worked in Le Mans.
When Marina’s half-brothers and sisters asked where she was they were told ‘she’s on holiday at the seaside,’ said Mrs Moulin-Bernard.
In a case which has shocked France, teachers said they had alerted social services to bruises found all over Marina’s body at two primary schools she attended, but investigations were scrapped.
‘We did what we could but to no effect,’ said Jean-Luc Dubois, the headmaster of Coulans-sur-Gee primary school who voiced concerns about Marina in April.
‘We were particularly worried because Marina was the subject of a report from a neighbouring village.’
Marina was a notoriously thin pupil, and would regularly try and steal food from the plates of other children, said Mr Dubois.
The Prefect of the Sarthe department has now ordered an investigation, with social workers putting the tragedy down to the family frequently changing address.
Over the past five years they had moved no less than five times, so making it hard for anybody to keep up with what they were doing.
The couple, who have four other children from previous partners, simply blamed the bruises on a fall.
It is the second time this year that French social services have missed a serious case of child abuse.
Earlier this year, a seven-year-old boy was released from a house in the southern town of Millau where he had been locked up in secret since he was born.