August 21, 2007 / 1:31 PM / 11 years ago

Mitterrand daughter's book on child murder sparks stir

PARIS (Reuters) - The illegitimate daughter of late President Francois Mitterrand is raising eyebrows in France with a novel that some accuse her of basing on a gruesome real-life case of child murder.

Critics say Mazarine Pingeot’s novel “Le Cimetiere des poupees” (The Doll Cemetery) about a woman who kills her baby and places the body in a freezer mirrors the so-called “Seoul freezer babies” case that shocked France a few months ago.

French police last year took Veronique Courjault into custody on suspicion of killing her two babies and storing their corpses in a freezer in the family’s Seoul apartment.

Pingeot, who featured on the cover of the glossy Paris Match this week, has been accused of publicity seeking and disrespectful exploitation of the family’s tragedy.

She has rejected criticism from Courjault’s friends that she should have waited with her book’s publication till after the trial, which is expected to open in several months.

The 32-year old, who is pregnant, said the Courjault case had fascinated her like other cases of child murder but her book had not been directly inspired by it.

“Veronique Courjault is not the only person to have put her children into a freezer,” she told French radio this week. “I read that ... cases of child murder have often involved a freezer.”

Referring to the fictional character of her book, which came out on Monday, Pingeot said:

“She thinks killing her child is a way of preserving it, of keeping it intact. That’s where the symbolic importance of the freezer comes in, which is a way of conserving.”

But Veronique Courjault’s mother-in-law, Genevieve Courjault, said the book’s readers might mistake the fictional characters for her son and daughter-in-law.

“I am essentially accusing her of having made use of our name to advertise her book,” Courjault told RTL radio on Tuesday, adding she had written an angry letter to Pingeot.

One of Courjault’s neighbors in the central French town of Chinon, Marie-Francoise Canal, said Pingeot should have held back from publication out of respect.

“(Pingeot) herself has benefited from discretion for years. She could show a bit of discretion herself, in turn,” Canal was quoted as saying by Ouest France daily, referring to Pingeot’s childhood as a secret love child.

Mitterrand, who was French president from 1981 till 1995, did not speak publicly about Mazarine until shortly before his death, by which time she was a university student.

Most French people saw her for the first time when she appeared at his funeral in January 1996.

The Courjault case first came to light in July 2006 when Courjault’s husband Jean-Louis contacted South Korean police to say he had discovered the corpses after returning from an overseas business trip.

Police sources have said Veronique Courjault had also admitted to killing a third child. She said she had hidden all three pregnancies from her husband and had acted alone in killing the children.

Courjault, who has two other children, has explained her actions by saying the pregnancies were unwanted. She could face life in prison if convicted of murdering her own children.

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