A French nursing assistant was today charged with the murder of eight of her newborn babies.
Dominique Cottrez, 45, is thought to have 'systematically' killed the children over the past 22 years before hiding their tiny bodies in black bin liners. She faces life in prison.
Cottez, who with her husband has two surviving adult daughters, made a brief appearance at the Palais de Justice in Douai, northern France, this morning.
Bail was refused, and she is expected to be kept in custody until her trial next year.
In what is thought to be the worst case of infanticide in French history, Cottrez confessed to the killings after eight corpses were found at the current and previous family homes in nearby Villers-au-Tertre.
But Cottrez insisted that her husband, a handyman who works for the local council, knew absolutely nothing about the dead babies.
Both were described by a neighbour as 'pillars of the local community', where they lived with one of their adult daughters, and a young grandson.
'Dominique is a lovely women who was devoted to other family members, and especially children,' said the neighbour.
It is believed that the killings started in 1988, and it was only a chance discovery of two of the bodies on Saturday which led to a judicial investigation being launched.
'The macabre suspicion is that this has been going on for 22 years with nobody in authority being any the wiser,' said a judicial source.
'If it wasn’t for somebody finding some bones while digging a pond and becoming suspicious then nobody would have known about these crimes.'
It is feared that Cottrez may have used some of her medical training to carry out the killings. As a nursing assistant she would have had regular access to a variety of potentially lethal drugs.
The new owners of Cottrez's old house found the remains of two children on Saturday while they were digging a duck pond in the garden.
Police forensics experts were summoned, and six more bodies were found hidden in various parts of the houses, including underneath a boiler.
The couple were immediately taken into custody in Douai, where a tearful Cottrez is said to have spoken openly about what happened, even suggesting that she had 'lost at least eight babies' since 1988
, said a judicial source.
Detectives fear that more bodies may be found in the days ahead.