Woman who left baby to drown blames 'witchcraft'

Berck-sur-Mer at Pas-de-Calais. Photo / iStock
Berck-sur-Mer at Pas-de-Calais. Photo / iStock

A mother who left her 15-month-old daughter to drown on a French beach told a court she had fallen prey to "witchcraft".

Fabienne Kabou, 39, from France, faces life in prison for the premeditated murder of Adelaide in the northern resort town of Berck-sur-Mer on November 19 2013.

Her lawyer described her as "extremely intelligent ... but subject to irrational beliefs".

Kabou had checked into a hotel and asked locals about the tides before reportedly breastfeeding the child on the beach that night and leaving her as the sea came in. The toddler was found the following day still in her pram.

She later told police she had chosen the town, on France's Channel coast between Calais and Dieppe, because "even the name sounded sad". "Berck" sounds like the French word for "yuk".

The next day she returned to Paris by train.

After a 10-day search, police used DNA from the pram to trace Kabou to the home she shares with her 63-year-old painter-sculptor boyfriend, Michel Lafon, in Paris, where she was arrested.

The case shocked France and prompted hundreds to take to the streets in a so-called "White March" demonstration against child cruelty.

Kabou told St-Omer court: "I put an end to her life because it was easier that way. Everything went perfectly. It was as if I felt carried along, I just couldn't say stop."

When asked by the judge what her motives were, she said: "There is no other explanation than witchcraft."

She told the court she had spent €40,000 on "witch doctors and healers" because she was plagued with evil voices, and "walls that shouted at me ceaselessly".

"Witchcraft? It is the conclusion I've reached by default as I have no other explanation," she said.

Her lawyer, Fabienne Roy-Nansion, read out a psychological report saying: "Her psychological status is largely influenced by cultural references and an individual history linked to Senegalese witchcraft that radically altered her view of the world."

However, Jean-Christophe Boyer, lawyer for L'Enfant Bleu, an association against child cruelty, dismissed her witchcraft claims as a cynical defence strategy.

"You are faced with a woman who is very intelligent and knows that she mustn't call herself crazy but give the experts enough fodder to appear mad. Witchcraft is perfect, plus it conforms to her culture," he told the court.

Kabou, born in Dakar, Senegal, was raised in an affluent Catholic family and was described as a brilliant student.

She is said to have an IQ of 135, well above average. She moved to France in 1995, where she abandoned an architecture course after two years and embarked on a philosophy degree.

After terminating two pregnancies before in 2012, she gave birth to Adelaide alone at the art studio she shared with Lafon. She had not consulted a doctor during the pregnancy and neither parent registered the birth with the authorities, so there was no official record of the girl, who was named after her grandmother.

According to French press reports, Kabou recounted the moment she left her child to die by saying: "I put her down, I spoke to her, I told her I was sorry.

"She was fine, I think. She didn't feel in danger, I was next to her, on my knees. I gave her a long hug ... she wasn't exactly asleep but she was calm ... I don't know how long I stayed there, saying I was sorry, talking to her. Then I turned on my heels and I ran."

The trial continues.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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