A 47-year-old woman has confessed to killing her eight new-born children and hiding their bodies in a village in northern France, a judicial source said yesterday.

The woman and her husband, also in his forties, have been in custody since the bodies were found on Tuesday wrapped in plastic bags at two homes in Villers-au-Tertre, a sleepy village of about 650 people 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Paris. The woman initially confessed in custody to killing two children at birth about 10 years ago, before admitting to the murder of the six others, the source said. Authorities have placed the woman, an auxiliary nurse, under formal investigation -- a preliminary stage before criminal charges -- for “voluntary murder of minors under the age of 15,” the source said.

Her husband, a carpenter, was also put under investigation for hiding the bodies and not alerting police. The prosecutor asked for the woman to be held in custody and the man to be freed under judicial supervision. There was no immediate comment from lawyers representing the couple. Neighbors in the village said the couple, who have two daughters in their twenties, had never acted suspiciously. The bodies came to light after the couple moved house recently. “They were always smiling and warm-hearted,” Madame Candelier, the current owner of couple’s old house where some of the corpses were discovered, told local television. According to the mayor, the husband was a member of the local council. Experts on similar past cases say they often involve “denial of pregnancy,” when women refuse to accept they are pregnant, sometimes leading to the murder of their children at birth. Israel Nisand, professor of the University Hospital in Strasbourg, said there were about 500 cases of woman denying their pregnancies each year around the world. “It’s serious and dangerous, but not very well known about. It’s as if there is a denial of the denial,” he told Reuters. “The state of mind worries us all and, in the case of women who kill their children, it is shocking for everybody.” A 38-year-old Frenchwoman was sentenced in March to 15 years in prison for killing six babies at birth between 2000 and 2007.

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