Some Pity for a Human Mastodon

The ways of human perversity are legion, and secretly we are glad of it, for it would be a dull world—a kind of ideal Switzerland raised to a higher power—without them. The bizarre, the wicked, and the perverse entertain us even as we condemn them or shake our heads over them in pretended disbelief. We want the world to be free of all this evil, but not just yet.

A case in France, that of Dominique Cottrez, will be the subject of books to come, ranging from the frankly prurient to the academically respectable. There will be sage attempts to pluck out the heart of her mystery, but they are doomed to failure, as were Guildenstern’s with Hamlet. If this strange woman can be said to have rendered humanity any service at all, it is to remind it of how little it understands itself. We understand the origins of the universe (perhaps), but not why we behave as we do. Swords Into Plowshares... Paul, Ron Best Price: $4.00 Buy New $15.99 (as of 11:36 EST - Details)

Dominique Cottrez is accused of killing eight newborns to which she gave birth. That she actually did so is not in dispute. Immensely fat, no one could tell just by looking at her that she was pregnant. Indeed, to judge from the photos of her now, most people would have difficulty in believing that anyone could have made her pregnant. Presumably, she was a little less obese at the times of conception than she was at the time of her trial.

Scarlet Letters: The E... Jack Cashill Best Price: $3.00 Buy New $9.84 (as of 08:10 EST - Details) As soon as the babies were born, seven of them at home and one in a hospital where she had been admitted for some other reason, she strangled them and either buried them in the garden or put them in plastic bags and hid them in her bedroom cupboard. If anyone noticed the appalling smell, she attributed it to (among other things) her husband’s feet.

Her crimes were discovered by the purchasers of the house in which they had taken place: They found the remains of two babies buried in the garden and Dominique Cottrez immediately confessed and revealed that she had killed six others. Initially she told the police that they had been conceived through her late father, whom she adored and with whom she had had a sexual affair since she was 8 years old, after he raped her; but later in court she said that this was all untrue. Her story gained her some sympathy, and I suppose that some will say that it is her denial that is false, not her original assertion. At any rate, she always maintained that her husband knew nothing of her pregnancies or their denouements, and the police must have believed her, for he was never charged.

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