Jail for couple who poisoned children in debt crisis

20th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

BEAUVAIS, France, Oct 20 (AFP) - A French married couple who poisoned their five children in a desperate bid to escape spiralling consumer debt were sentenced to lengthy prison terms by a court northwest of Paris Thursday.

BEAUVAIS, France, Oct 20 (AFP) - A French married couple who poisoned their five children in a desperate bid to escape spiralling consumer debt were sentenced to lengthy prison terms by a court northwest of Paris Thursday.

Emmanuel and Patricia Cartier, aged 37 and 44, were given 15 and 10 years in jail and deprived of parental rights over their four surviving children.

In August 2002 the couple made a murder-and-suicide pact to take their family to "a better place" after they were unable to meet repayments on 230,000 euros (275,000 dollars) of debt divided between more than 20 bank and loan accounts.

But only their 11 year-old daughter died of the insulin injection which they administered, and Emmanuel's nerve failed when he tried to slash his own wrists.

The pair had faced potential life terms, but lawyers appealed for clemency saying they were partly the victims of a consumerist society.

"They were brought down by the fatal logic of debt and the poisonous charm of revolving credit. They have their share of responsibility in the affair, but for them alone to bear the blame would be deeply unjust," said lawyer Hubert Delarue.

The court heard how Emmanuel and Patricia, who had poorly paid jobs as a machine-operator and a care-worker, spent heedlessly on electric goods, clothes and presents for the children -- juggling the debt via a succession of credit companies.

"I had no limit. If any of the children wanted something, I had to give it. And then to be fair, I had to give it to the others too," Emmanuel told the court at Beauvais, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Paris, on Tuesday.

"You see an attractive offer and you make the call. You get a form and you fill it in. The cheque arrives two days later just like they said. It all happens without seeing anyone, and you repay so little that you hardly notice. Life feels good," he said in an earlier interview with Liberation newspaper.

In 2000 when the couple -- already saddled with 45,000 euros of debt -- took out a mortgage on a house near Beauvais, the building company provided a financial advisor who for a fee rescheduled the couple's repayments.

"I told myself -- these people know better than we do," Emmanuel said.

The Cartiers were soon taking out new loans in order to pay off old ones, and Emmanuel began buying cars on credit to sell them for quick cash. In mid-2002 the financial edifice crashed down, and within days they were being besieged with payment demands.

Patricia obtained the insulin and syringes from the old people's home where she worked, and used the last of their money to buy new clothes "so that the children were nicely dressed when they reached the other world," Emmanuel told Liberation.

"The idea was to meet again in a parallel world; to get up together and go to work -- but without all the hassle," he told the court.

Alicia, 11, died in hospital three weeks after the poisoning. The surviving children -- two boys and two girls aged one, three, six and 13 at the time -- have been cared for by relatives since their parents' arrest. The couple were granted conditional release a year ago pending this week's trial.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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