PARIS – The slaying of a 12-year-old girl whose body was found inside a plastic box in a Paris building courtyard has left France “profoundly shaken,” the French government said Wednesday.
A 24-year-old woman who was arrested Saturday in a northeastern suburb of the capital is in custody on charges of murder and rape of a minor, torture, acts of barbarity and concealment of a corpse, the Paris state prosecutor said Monday. A 43-year-old man is also in custody, charged with helping to hide the girl’s body, according to a prosecutors' statement.
The killing of the girl, identified in the French media only as Lola, has sparked a heated political debate after reports emerged identifying the main suspect as an immigrant who remained in France despite an official order that mandated her to leave.
An autopsy showed that the girl died of “cardio-respiratory failure with signs of asphyxia and cervical compression,” Paris prosecutors said. The coroner’s report also cited wounds to her face, back and neck and injuries consistent with sexual assault, prosecutor said.
A judicial investigation is underway to determine the motive for the killing and a timeline of events that led to the girl’s death Friday and the discovery of her body that night in the courtyard of the building where she lived with her family.
“We are profoundly shaken, faced with the horror and the pain,” French government spokesman Olivier Veran told reporters.
The girl’s father reported his daughter missing Friday afternoon after she failed to return home from school. He works as a concierge in the building and used security camera footage to retrace 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 was leaving, carrying what appeared to be a heavy suitcase, according to the prosecutor’s statement.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Education Minister Pap Ndiaye have visited the girl's school, and psychologists were 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 “condolences and offered solidarity and support in their terrible ordeal that upsets us all.”
The president's political rivals, meanwhile, lashed out at his centrist government and blamed its immigration policies for the girl's death.
French media reports said the 24-year-old suspect was an immigrant from Algeria. She lived in the country illegally for three years, Veran said. In August, when she landed at Paris's Orly airport, authorities noticed her flawed immigration status and issued her an order to leave French territory before letting her in, the government spokesman explained.
“The suspect in this barbaric act should not have been in our country,” Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Rally party, said Tuesday during a heated National Assembly session. Le Pen, who leads the largest opposition party in France's most powerful house of parliament, demanded that Macron's government put a stop to “uncontrolled immigration.”
Veran, the government spokesman, appealed for lawmakers to refrain from political bickering, saying Wednesday that Lola’s parents “ask 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 needed tough stance warranted by atrocities that have been committed. It’s up to judicial authorities to do so.”
Surk reported from Nice, France.