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Jean-Louis Courjault and his wife, Véronique, talk to reporters in 2006, after the frozen bodies of two infants were found at their home in South Korea. (Associated Press)

PARIS, June 15 -- When South Korean authorities announced in 2006 that they had found the bodies of two newborns in the home freezer of a French expatriate couple, the first reaction among friends and family was disbelief.

Véronique Courjault, 41, on the surface a devoted mother of two sons, and her husband, Jean-Louis, 42, a shy engineer specializing in diesel motors, at first said they had nothing to do with the macabre discovery. But from a murder trial underway for the past 10 days in Tours, 100 miles southwest of Paris, a grisly truth has emerged. The courtroom version of how the couple lived has fascinated France and left many people in shock and wonder.

Véronique Courjault, by her own admission, smothered the two babies after giving birth to them secretly in Seoul, the first in 2002 and the second in 2003. She also has acknowledged killing a newborn and burning the body in her garden after a first secret pregnancy in 1999, before the couple left France.

Jean-Louis Courjault, French prosecutors ruled, was never aware of his wife's pregnancies, or her lonely deliveries in the family bathtub and the subsequent slayings of three infants. After a long investigation, he was not charged, leaving unanswered how he could have failed to notice his wife's condition. He has attended her trial with the goal, he told reporters, of offering all the support he can.

Day by day, reporters from the national newspapers in Paris lay out the details of Véronique Courjault's testimony. But they remain unable to offer any understanding of why she did what she did. As the trial enters its final days, the mystery has absorbed the country.

"Personally I am sad, really sad for this lady," commented a visitor to one of several news Web sites tracking the case. "Yes, what she did could be qualified as cruel or some other adjective. But first, what I would like to understand is why this woman went ahead with her pregnancies, what she believed in, what her hopes were."

[Washington Post]