A French appeal court on Sunday handed down a mother and her ex-partner 20-years prison sentence for the brutal murder of the women’s five-year-old daughter. The case took place in 2013 and it shocked the country as Cecile Bourgeon, 30, claimed that her daughter just went missing without a trace.
Bourgeon drew nationwide sympathy in May 2013, when she appealed for help in locating her five-year-old daughter, Fiona, whom she claimed had disappeared from a public park. The entire nation started praying for the safe retrieval of the blonde, blue-eyed girl.
However, after four months of the incident, the mother and her partner Berkane Makhlouf, admitted that they had buried the girl in a forest near the city of Clermont-Ferrand. They claimed that she had died in an accident at home, and instead of reporting the incident, they just buried her.
In 2016, a lower court had acquitted Bourgeon of murder but sentenced her to five years for lying about her daughter’s fate while handing Makhlouf 20 years behind bars.
But following a two-week appeal hearing in Le Puy-en-Velay in central France before a nine-member all-woman jury, the sentence was overturned with Bourgeon handed a 20-year penalty for her daughter’s death alongside Makhlouf, 36.
Prosecutor Raphael Gentile de Sanesi described the couple as a pair of ‘torturers’, who had collaborated in the “ongoing violence” suffered by the child during “the days and hours leading to her death”.
Even though the details of Fiona’s murder still remain murky, the deceit and brutality of the couple has angered people who initially believed in their innocence.
The child’s father, Nicolas Chafoulais, expressed satisfaction with the verdict.
“She got the sentence she deserves. It is relief for me and justice for Fiona,” he told AFP.
“But am I at peace? No,” he said, choking back the tears.
“It hasn’t brought my daughter back.”