Woman charged in Paris over rape and murder of 12-year-old girl
Flowers with a handwritten message that reads "Rest in peace Lola, courage for the family" are displayed on October 17, 2022, outside a building in Paris where a 12-year-old schoolgirl named Lola lived, three days after her body was discovered in a trunk in the city’s 19th district. © Stringer, AFP

Paris investigators on Monday charged a woman suspected of raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl whose body was found in a trunk on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.

The main suspect, identified as a 24-year-old woman suffering from psychiatric disorders, was questioned earlier Monday alongside an older man suspected of sheltering her.

The 24-year-old has been charged with the rape and murder of a minor aged under 15 along with torture and abuse, the source said.

A judge ordered that she be held in provisional custody.

Prosecutors said in a press release Monday that under questioning, the woman made "varying statements, switching between admitting and denying the facts of the case."

But she eventually said she had brought the girl -- identified only by her first name, Lola -- to her sister's apartment in the same building, where she forced her to take a shower.

The woman said she had then "committed harm of a sexual nature and other violent acts against (Lola) that caused her death, and hid her body in the trunk," prosecutors said.

According to the autopsy, the young girl died due to "cardio-respiratory failure with signs of asphyxia and cervical compression".

Other non-fatal wounds were found on her face and back as well as large gashes on her neck, and the numbers 0 and 1 were written in red on the soles of each of her feet.

"Investigations are continuing to determine exactly what happened (and) to establish the criminal responsibility of the people involved," prosecutors added.

The suspect's lawyer Alexandre Silva expressed sympathy for Lola's family, before calling on the press not to report "rumours" and insisting on the presumption of innocence for his client.

The 43-year-old man also questioned in custody on Monday admitted that he brought the 24-year-old woman to his home with the trunk and two suitcases, where he said she stayed for two hours before leaving again in a chauffeur-driven car he had called for her.

Spotted on CCTV

The main suspect was arrested on Saturday in Bois-Colombes in Paris' northwestern suburbs, after investigators tracked her movements on CCTV cameras from the building and the surrounding area as well as using phone records and physical searches.

Lola's parents had called police after their daughter did not return from middle school on Friday afternoon.

Her father, the custodian in the building, was unsettled by seeing the unknown woman enter the building in Paris' 19th district alongside his daughter when he checked the CCTV recordings.

An eyewitness who also saw the suspect at the scene said that she had offered him money to help her move a large trunk, several media outlets reported.

But a homeless man was the first to discover the body, which sources familiar with the investigation said was hidden under cloths in a plastic box in the building's courtyard.

Six people, including the suspect's sister and others who had contact with her in the time immediately following the killing, have so far been placed in custody in relation to the case, with four since released.

'Time for mourning'

Local residents placed flowers at the gate of the family's building over the weekend.

Meanwhile, school authorities have announced they will set up psychological aid for staff and pupils at Lola's school and others in the area.

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One mother told AFP that her daughter, another pupil who knew Lola by sight, was "not doing well today, she doesn't want to go to school."

"Today it's time for mourning and for the investigation, which seems to be progressing quickly," 19th district mayor Francois Dagnaud said during a visit to the Georges-Brassens school.

"What's important is that the main suspect for now has been arrested, there's no psychopath roaming the streets of this neighbourhood," he added after local parents reported fears for their children's safety.

"Of course, the fact that a 12-year-old child can die in such circumstances is overwhelming for everybody," he added, saying that counselling would also be offered to local residents.

(AFP)