PARIS (Reuters) -French authorities have arrested a 24-year-old woman on suspicion of killing a 12-year-old girl whose body, covered in cuts and bruises, was found in a plastic trunk outside her home in Paris, in a case that has shocked the country.
The murder of the girl, named Lola, quickly became a source of political tension as well, with opposition parties seizing on the profile of the suspect – an illegal immigrant – to call for tougher immigration policies.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said the girl disappeared on Friday afternoon and her body was discovered later that evening by a homeless man outside her building in the 19th arrondissement of the French capital.
She died asphyxiated, prosecutors said in a statement.
The main suspect was seen on CCTV exiting the building in the afternoon, carrying heavy luggage, including the trunk in which the victim was found.
She was arrested on Monday and put under formal investigation on accusations of murder, rape and acts of torture, a judicial source said on Tuesday.
Shocked neighbours laid flowers and candles in tribute to the girl.
“It’s unbearable,” said a neighbour who declined to give her name. “We’ve been living in this neighbourhood for years and we’ve just come here to give support to the family, in leaving a bouquet, because like many people, this breaks our hearts.”
Another neighbour said: “Twelve years old… poor girl … it doesn’t make any sense.”
French President Emmanuel Macron met with the girl’s parents.
“He offered them his condolences and assured them of all his solidarity and support in the ordeal they are going through and which upsets us all,” his office said.
As authorities confirmed reports that the suspect was an illegal immigrant, the far-right and some in the conservatives’ ranks said this showed failings in the government’s law and order policies.
“This murder should not have happened. The assassin should not have been in France,” Olivier Marleix, president of the conservative Les Republicains group in the National Assembly, told Reuters. “There is a very deep emotion in our country.”
“Too many crimes are being committed by clandestine immigrants one has not been able or willing to deport,” French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said in parliament. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne asked her to “show some decency”.
Lawyer Alexandre Silva, representing the suspect, told BFM TV that he could not comment on the case.
Newspapers, citing police and judicial sources, said the suspect was Algerian.
(Reporting by Thomas Denis, Benoit Van Overstraeten, ELizabeth Pineau, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Tassilo Hummel; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Nick Macfie and Ed Osmond)