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French family held captive in squalid flat for over a year

AFP file photo

Local authorities in France’s blighted port of Saint-Nazaire said Wednesday that they were opening an investigation into the shocking case of a mother and her four children who were kept locked up in a filthy flat for at least one year.

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French authorities on Wednesday opened an investigation into the shocking case of a mother and her four children who appear to have been kept locked up for at least a year in squalid conditions in their flat in the rundown port of Saint-Nazaire on France's Atlantic coast.

The father, the only member of the family seen by neighbours in over a year, has been detained in a psychiatric hospital.

The family was discovered by emergency services when they turned up at the flat during the night of Friday to Saturday in response to a call from the mother, who said she was feeling ill.

The children, aged 14, 17, 19 and 20, and described as having learning difficulties, were found prostrate in the mould-covered apartment in a block of social housing.

“An investigation has been opened on grounds of ‘failing parental duties’ or in judicial terms ‘moral and material abandon’,” the Saint-Nazaire prosecutor told AFP, adding that the children, none of whom seem to have been beaten or sexually abused, had been placed in foster care.

Neighbours thought the mother, Christine Barreteau, 47, and the children had left her partner, Dominique Barreteau, 51. He was regularly seen putting out rubbish or coming back with shopping but never responded to any greetings.

The organisation that runs the housing block said they had no indication that the flat had fallen into such a dilapidated state, despite bolts having been attached to the outside of the door and windows.

But neighbour Pascale Le Gall said she had alerted officials to the foul smell coming from the flat and to an incident in which she had been threatened by the father.

A fifth child, an elder daughter who no longer lived with the rest of the family, is assisting police with their inquiries.

(France24 with wires)
 

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