France murders: Man held after mother and children killed in Meaux

French police stand in front of a building where five bodies were found dead in Meaux, near Paris
Image caption,Five bodies were found dead by French police in an apartment on the evening of 25 December

By Nadia Ragozhina

BBC News

French police have arrested a 33-year-old man suspected of murdering his wife and four children.

An investigation began after their five bodies were found in a flat in Meaux, 40km (25 miles) north-east of Paris.

The victims are a woman and her four children aged between nine months and 10 years old.

Prosecutor Jean-Baptiste Bladier described a scene of “extreme violence” when police reached the flat, with pools of blood at the scene.

The flat showed no sign of break-in and the children’s father was not present, he told a press conference on Tuesday.

The alarm was raised after a neighbour had tried to reach the family several times and, when she saw the shutters were down, she had decided something was wrong.

She told French media she had found blood on the door handle and in front of the door, and then called the police.

The police traced the suspect by following CCTV footage, eventually arresting him at his father’s home in nearby Sevran.

Mr Bladier said the suspect was known to the police due to a previous case of domestic violence, although he had no criminal record.

In 2019, a month before the birth of the couple’s third child, the suspect attacked his partner with a knife, according to the prosecutor.

The Versailles judicial police service is investigating the murders. Mr Bladier said that the mother and her two eldest daughters aged 10 and seven had suffered “a large number of stab wounds”.

The two youngest, a boy aged four and a baby of nine months, did not have any visible wounds on their bodies and had been “strangled or possibly drowned”. Their post mortem examinations will take place on Wednesday.

Neighbours said the 35-year-old mother was “nice and spoke to everybody”.

One woman said of the father that he had been calm but “not comfortable in his skin”. She said the wife had spoken of her husband’s depression following the loss of his job. The neighbour also said that the suspect had been “undergoing treatment”.

Following the attack in 2019, the mother did not press charges and the case was dropped due to her partner’s mental health at the time.

Mr Bladier said that, during the search of the apartment, documents were found that might suggest admission to a psychiatric hospital in 2017 and a prescription for tranquilisers.

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, 10 and 11, and turned himself in. Police found them dead in his home in the town of Alfortville, in the south-eastern suburbs of the capital
  • In October, a policeman killed his three daughters before killing himself at his home in Vemars in Val-d’Oise.

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