PARIS (AP) — The murder of a 12-year-old girl whose body was found in a plastic box in the courtyard of a Paris building has left France “deeply shaken,” a spokesman for the French government.
A 24-year-old woman arrested on Saturday in a northeastern suburb of the capital is in police custody for murder and rape of a minor, torture, acts of barbarism and concealment of a corpse, the Paris public prosecutor said on Monday. A 43-year-old man is also in custody, accused of helping hide the girl’s body, according to a statement from prosecutors.
The murder of the girl, identified in French media only as Lola, sparked a vicious political debate after reports emerged identifying the prime suspect as an immigrant who remained in the country despite a deportation order.
An autopsy showed the girl died “of cardiorespiratory failure with signs of asphyxia and cervical compression”, Paris prosecutors said. The coroner’s report also cited injuries to the face, back and neck and injuries consistent with sexual assault, according to the prosecutor’s statement.
A forensic investigation is underway to determine the motive for the murder and a timeline of events that led to the girl’s death on Friday and the discovery of her body that night in the courtyard of the building where she lived with his family.
“We are deeply shaken, in the face of horror and pain,” French government spokesman Olivier Veran told a press briefing.
The girl’s father reported that his daughter went missing on Friday afternoon after she failed to return from school. He works as a janitor in the building and used security camera footage to trace the girl’s movements.
He reported that his daughter entered the building with an unknown woman who later appeared alone in a hallway as she left carrying what appeared to be a heavy suitcase, according to the prosecutor’s statement.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Education Minister Pap Ndiaye visited the girls’ school, and a team of psychologists was dispatched to offer support to students and their parents.
French President Emmanuel Macron received the girl’s parents at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday and said he had expressed “his condolences and offered solidarity and support in their terrible ordeal which upsets us all”.
The president’s political rivals lambasted the government and blamed its immigration policies for the girl’s death. According to French media, the 24-year-old suspect was an Algerian immigrant who was living illegally in France.
“The suspect in this barbaric act should not have been in our country,” Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party, told a stormy session of the National Assembly on Tuesday. Le Pen, who leads the largest opposition party in France’s most powerful parliament, has called on the government to end “uncontrolled immigration”.
Veran, the government spokesman, called for no political wrangling, saying Wednesday that Lola’s parents are “asking us for collective support in what they are going through, without adding to their pain.”
“Like them, we want answers,” Veran said. “Like them, we want to punish with the necessary firmness, justified by the atrocities that have been committed. It is up to the judicial authorities to do so.
Surk reported from Nice, France.