Nanny nightmare: Chinese pair in French court over grisly murders
A Chinese couple -- a nanny and her partner -- appeared in a Paris court Tuesday, accused of killing and dismembering the parents of a baby who had died in the babysitter's care.
Hui Zhang and her boyfriend Te Lu, both aged 34, face up to 30 years in prison for the gory crime worthy of a film plot.
The case first came to light in June 2012 after two joggers came upon a bare leg, cut off at the ankle, in the Vincennes forest on the edge of the French capital.
Several days later, a guide dog found a human torso in the same area, but the hunt for further remains was fruitless.
Police knew the victims were Asian and initially thought the murders could be the work of the Chinese mafia, or that of Luka Rocco Magnotta, a Canadian convicted of killing and dismembering a Chinese student who had spent time in Paris.
But before the bodies could even be identified, Hui Zhang and Te Lu turned themselves in.
Hui told police she had been babysitting a two-month-old baby who had died in his sleep.
She and her partner Te Lu decided to offer the child's parents money to try to get them not to report the boy's death.
They invited the parents to their home, but said their plans quickly went awry faced with the fury of the grieving couple.
Hui claims the parents had first attacked them with a butcher's knife.
"My client maintains she was acting in self-defence," said the nanny's lawyer Alexis Guedj.
A lawyer for the family of the child's mother, Chloe Arnoux, said Hui "was not able to tell them to their faces that their child was dead, so she brought the baby's body into the sitting room."
She does not believe the claim of self-defence, arguing that the defendants prepared for the meeting by equipping themselves with the sharp weapons.
Trying to cover her tracks, Hui then chopped up the two bodies in the bathroom with an electric saw, using the washing machine to cover the noise.
She then wrapped the body parts in rubbish bags and scrubbed her apartment clean.
Her boyfriend Te confirmed her version of events. He said he fell unconscious during the fight and remained so while Hui cut up the bodies.
When he came to he helped her get rid of the remains.
"He was violently hit, it has been medically recorded," said Te's lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti, arguing that his client was not complicit in the murder.
After the couple turned themselves in, they directed police to the locations of more body parts around the forest.
However they did not find the baby's body, which Hui said she had thrown in rubbish bins along with some of the other remains.
While the baby's grandfather told police the nanny gave the child sleeping tablets, other parents have described her as attentive and the case relating to the boy's death was dismissed.
Police say there were no indications that Hui and Te, who arrived in France in 2004, were predisposed to this sort of grisly crime.
Hui has been described by investigators as a highly intelligent and forceful character. Witnesses say she was the dominant partner in her relationship with Te, who was a business advisor.
After the murders, they went to China and closed their bank accounts in France, but returned soon after.
They say they had always intended to return, but police claim they were worried about facing the death penalty in China.
The trial will continue until Friday.
© 2016 AFP