Genevieve Lhermitte

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Genevieve Lhermitte
BornNovember 16, 1966
Brussels, Belgium
NationalityBelgian
MotiveDesperation
Conviction(s)Murder
PenaltyLife in prison
Conviction statusCurrently in prison
OccupationHousewife
SpouseBouchaib Moqadem
Parents
  • Michel Lhermitte
  • Marina Schoevaert
ChildrenFour daughters, one son
ResidenceForest Prison (Berkendael)
 
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Genevieve Lhermitte
BornNovember 16, 1966
Brussels, Belgium
NationalityBelgian
MotiveDesperation
Conviction(s)Murder
PenaltyLife in prison
Conviction statusCurrently in prison
OccupationHousewife
SpouseBouchaib Moqadem
Parents
  • Michel Lhermitte
  • Marina Schoevaert
ChildrenFour daughters, one son
ResidenceForest Prison (Berkendael)

Genevieve Lhermitte is a Belgian woman who killed her five children on February 28, 2007. She killed each of her children by slitting their throats with a kitchen knife stolen from a local grocery store while her husband was visiting family in Morocco. After Lhermitte killed her children, she then tried to kill herself. The suicide attempt failed, and Lhermitte was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder. She was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.[1]

Lhermitte had regularly seen a psychiatrist and was reported to demonstrate serious mental issues. She claimed that she was driven to kill her children due to troubles at home (namely, living with an outsider who financially supported the family).

Personal life[edit source | edit]

Genevieve Lhermitte was born on November 16, 1966 in Brussels to Michel Lhermitte, a businessman and student, and Marina Schoevaert, a nurse. Lhermitte had two younger sisters: Catherine in 1969, and Mireille in 1972.[2] Though she struggled with her coursework and self-confidence during her secondary studies, Lhermitte graduated in 1991 with a diploma in French and History from the Educational Institute of Social Promotion of the French Community (IEPSCF) in Uccle. It was during the 1988-1989 year at IEPSCF that Lhermitte met her future husband, Bouchaib Moqadem, who was studying mathematics and physics but did not complete his studies.[2]

Lhermitte and Moqadem married on September 22, 1990,[2][3] and moved into the apartment of Dr. Michel Schaar, a physician, with whom Moqadem was residing. Schaar had befriended Moqadem's family in Morocco in the 1980s and served as the young man's host in Belgium, and Moqadem considered Schaar as an adoptive father.[3] While Moqadem worked at a convenience store, it was Schaar that was the primary financial provider. Lhermitte did not object to living with Schaar in his apartment as she thought it would be on a temporary basis.[2]

In 1991, Lhermitte was hired as a teacher. Shortly after beginning her new career, Lhermitte gave birth to her first child, Yasmine (b. August 13, 1992).[3] Three years later, she delivered her second child, Nora (b. February 13, 1995). From June 1, 1995 to August 31, 1996, Lhermitte was granted leave from her teaching position due to postpartum depression.[2][3] After the birth of Lhermitte's first child Yasmin, Schaar purchased a house for himself and the couple to live in, and he dedicated his apartment to his practice. In 1996, Schaar hired Moqadem to serve as his filing assistant part-time, then full-time in 1998. During this period, Schaar still covered most expenses, including vacations, house repairs, monthly allowances, and life insurance for each family member. [2] Lhermitte gave birth to two more daughters, Miriam (b. April 20, 1997) and Mina (May 20, 1999), before the family's move from Brussels to the provincial town of Nivelles. Schaar paid the mortgage and lived on the second floor.[3]

Tensions began rising between Lhermitte and her husband. Moqadem would spend long hours away from home, becoming a regular at a bar and a spa. In addition, he would take several trips each year to visit his family in Marrakesh, with the length of each trip ranging from a week to a month.[2] Lhermitte's first son and fifth child, Mehdi, was born on August 9, 2003. The following year, Schaar recommended that Lhermitte should see a psychiatrist[2] and she began consulting the psychiatrist Dr. Diderick Veldekens in 2005.[4]

Crime[edit source | edit]

On February 28, 2007, Moqadem was expected to return from a trip to Morocco to visit his family. Lhermitte took her eldest daughter Yasmin to a dermatology appointment. After picking up the rest of her children from school and preparing lunch for them, Lhermitte heard a voice tell her, "the machine is running." [5] Lhermitte mailed two letters: a letter with jewelry for her sisters, and the other letter to her friend Valerie. In the letter to Valerie, she called Dr. Michel Scharr "a rotten bastard" who "stole" the intimacy between herself, her husband, and her children.[3] She also accused her husband of being "deaf" and "blind" to her concerns regarding Dr. Scharr.[5][6] After mailing the letters, she went to a grocery store and slipped two knives into her shopping bag.[2][6]

Lhermitte told investigators that, when she returned, she hid the knives in a drawer and called over her youngest daughter Mina while the other children were watching Spy Kids 3.[3] Lhermitte tried to strangle Mina, but when the child struggled Lhermitte resorted to slashing her throat with one of the stolen knives, all while speaking comforting words and apologizing to the child.[6] Medhi was the next to be killed, the youngest and the only son. When her attempts to strangle her child again failed, Lhermitte cut Medhi's throat and washed the knife afterward in the bathroom sink.[5][6]

According to her account, Lhermitte then told daughter Myriam that she had a surprise for her in the office. When Myriam entered the office, Lhermitte told her to sit on a chair and wear a blue handkerchief over her eyes. Once Myriam was seated, Lhermitte took a marble plaque she found nearby and smashed it over Myriam's head, and then cut her throat.[2][6] Nora, who was allegedly Dr. Schaar's favorite goddaughter, was asked to sit in a chair while Lhermitte slit her throat from behind. After Nora had been killed, Lhermitte wrote the letters "JUD" on the bathroom mirror in Nora's blood, and later stated that she had intended to spell the name "Judas."[7][8]

Lhermitte's last victim was her eldest daughter, Yasmin. The mother called over Yasmin and told her she had a surprise for her, just like she had done with Myriam. Lhermitte attacked Yasmin from behind as she entered the office, but Yasmin was able to dodge the knife by diving to the ground. After a struggle in which Yasmin suffered multiple stab wounds, Lhermitte stabbed her in the back and slashed her throat.[2][3] With her children dead, Lhermitte then attempted to kill herself by falling on her knife. When she realized that the wound would not be fatal, she wrote "call the police" in red marker on her door and called emergency services to the house.[2][5] Investigators found the four children tucked in their beds, some with stuffed toys in their arms.[2]

Trial[edit source | edit]

The trial began on December 8, 2008 and lasted about two weeks, ending December 19, 2008 in the Assize Court of Brabant-Wallon in Nivelles. Genevieve Lhermitte's lawyers were Daniel Spreutels and Xavier Magnee.[9]The jury consisted of eight women and four men. Genevieve Lhermitte confessed to the murder of her children, so the trial focused on what drove Lhermitte commit the crime. Xavier Magnee told the jury, "Your task is to discover why a woman who had hitherto been a perfect mother suddenly exploded."[1] This statement was made early on in the trial and started the thought process of what made Lhermitte so unstable that she would kill her own children. Prosecutor Pierre Rans began opening statements with a description of the scene that met emergency services on February 28, 2007 at the former teacher's home in Nivelles. The prosecutor asked for 30 years in prison.[10]

During the trial, Lhermitte testified that her role as wife and mother was disrupted by having the middle-aged Belgian doctor, Michel Schaar, living in the same house as part of the family. According to Lhermitte, Scharr accompanied her and Moqadem on their honeymoon and stayed in their room. Lhermitte stated, "We [Lhermitte and Moqadem] had to wait until he fell asleep before we could make love. I found that weird but Bouchaib said he regarded him as his stepfather. I think the doctor loved my husband in a platonic way."[1] Apart from explaining Scharr's intrusion on her relationship with her husband, Lhermitte also mentioned their family's reliance on Dr. Schaar: "He watched TV with us in the evenings and went on holiday with us in the summer. We depended on him financially."[1] In court, Lhermitte was asked why she laid the dead body of her 13-year-old daughter Nora in the bathroom used by Dr Schaar. She replied: "I wanted to hurt him. Nora was his favorite."[1]

The trial ended with Lhermitte receiving the maximum sentence for the murder of her five children. The court and the jury did not take any extenuating circumstances into account. In her closing argument, Lhermitte said she would accept any punishment the court gave her and showed remorse for her actions.[10] Earlier in the trial, psychiatrists had found that Lhermitte was not of sound mind when she committed the acts and should not be held accountable for her actions. They felt that she should be admitted into a psychiatric institution rather than going to prison, but the jury did not follow their opinions. [10] Lhermitte had been battling with depression for many years. She concluded that she saw the murder of her children and committing suicide as her only way out.[11]

Aftermath[edit source | edit]

Trial billing[edit source | edit]

Lhermitte filed for and received a judgment of divorce before her trial; Moqadem at first appealed the decision but later withdrew his objection.[12] Following the trial, Lhermitte was not able to pay for the trial costs, so under Belgian law it fell to her now ex-husband to pick up the bill. This conformed to the Law of Belgium, with the state seeking funds due to have been shared from the sale of their house under their divorce agreement. The overall court expenses and fines were 72,743 euros (about $93,000). Moqadem said he was “disgusted and revolted” by the injustice of this billing system.[13] Moqadem’s attorney attempted to have the bill written off, calling for “administrative requirements to be balanced by decency” given the nature of the tragedy.[13]

In February 2010, Moqadem remarried Asmae Beldi, a professor of Islamic law at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Brussels.[14] A daughter was born to the couple about a year later. In June 2013, it was reported that Moqadem had lost 30,000 euros in an investment scam and that he was being harassed by Lhermitte's former attorney for further fees.[15]

Post-trial lawsuit[edit source | edit]

After being sentenced to life imprisonment, Lhermitte filed a lawsuit seeking €3m in damages against her psychiatrist, Diderik Veldekens. She said that had her psychiatrist rushed to see her while she was in her disturbed state, the crime would not have been committed. Lhermitte wanted to “secure recognition of the prejudice genuinely suffered” due to the psychiatrist’s alleged inaction.[16] During the trial, Veldekens reported meeting with Lhermitte after a first alarming letter, but couldn't meet with her on February 13, 2007 due to his full schedule.[17] In December 2011, the case was dismissed against Veldekens. The court ruled that the criminal charges against the psychiatrist were "irrelevant."[18]

In popular culture[edit source | edit]

Belgian director and screenwriter Joachim Lafosse released Our Children, a film based on the story, to positive reviews in 2012. One reviewer called the film a "gloomy and penetrating psychological drama" that portrays the claustrophobia of a protagonist who lives in an environment in which "the walls are constantly closing in around her."[19] Our Children also attained an 93% rating on the aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes.[20] Émilie Dequenne, a French-speaking Belgian actress, played the character based on Genevieve Lhermitte. Dequenne won the Un Certain Regard Award at the Cannes Film Festival and "Best Actress" at the Saint Petersburg International Film Festival for her role.[21]

In December 2010, Moqadem and Schaar filed a lawsuit against Lafosse demanding that they be able to review the film's screenplay. The 4th Civil Chamber of the Court of Brussels ruled that the lawsuit was "admissible but unfounded." However, production had already begun — cast negotiations were finished, and the team had already approached the French government about receiving subsidies — and Lafosse demonstrated no intent to hand over his work.[22] The pair's lawyer subsequently released an official statement: "Moqadem and Schaar feel that this is a violation of their privacy and do not understand why the filmmakers have so little respect for them."[22]

Notes[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e 'Perfect mother' massacred her five children by slitting their throats while husband was away | The Daily Mail
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Official Indictment of the General Counsel | The Standard Online
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h The true story behind 'Loving Without Reason' | Paris Match
  4. ^ Lhermitte claims 3 million from her psychiatrist | Le Soir
  5. ^ a b c d Voice slipped into the head of exasperated mother | Le Soir
  6. ^ a b c d e Genevieve Lhermitte tried at Nivelles Monday on five counts of infanticide | 7Sur7
  7. ^ Infanticide: psychiatric experts debate | Le Figaro
  8. ^ Three letters of blood | La Dernière Heure
  9. ^ Belgian mother on trial for killing her five children | The Telegraph
  10. ^ a b c Lhermitte sentenced to life-long in prison | Flanders News
  11. ^ Lhermitte not accountable | Expatica Online
  12. ^ "Le mari de Geneviève Lhermitte accepte le divorce". 7sur7. 22 January 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Belgium bills ex-husband of child killer Genevieve Lhermitte for court costs | News Limited
  14. ^ "Je veux redevenir pere". Sudpresse.be. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Bouchaib Moqadem victime d'un escroc". Sudinfo.be. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  16. ^ Child-killer mom suing doctor | News24
  17. ^ Veldekens Statement | Wordpress
  18. ^ Psychiatrist of Genevieve Lhermitte blamed in crime | Nivelles
  19. ^ Our Children: Cannes Review | The Hollywood Reporter
  20. ^ Our Children | Rotten Tomatoes
  21. ^ Un Certain Regard Awards | Cannes Film Festival
  22. ^ a b Joachim Lafosse will not send a copy of his screenplay | La Dernière Heure

References[edit source | edit]