French police have arrested a 33-year-old man on suspicion of murdering his wife and their four children, a prosecutor said.
Authorities found the bodies of the 35-year-old woman and her children – aged nine months, four, seven and ten years old – on Christmas Day.
The discovery was made in the town of Meaux, east of Paris, after worried friends and family sounded the alarm, prosecutor Jean-Baptiste Bladier said.
The arrested man, who is French, was previously held in 2019 after stabbing his partner when she was pregnant with their third child.
She had refused to press charges, the prosecutor said, and the case was dropped because of his the state of his mental health at the time.
The couple, who had met in school, married in October.
Police broke in through a bedroom window of their ground-floor flat to find a “very violent crime scene”, Mr Bladier said.
A police source said the mother was lying in the corridor, while the children were found dead in their rooms, in the kitchen and bathroom.
“The mother and the two girls had received a very high number of knife wounds,” the prosecutor said.
Two younger boys did not had no stab wounds and may have been suffocated, he added.
Neighbours told police they had heard cries downstairs during the night of 24 to 25 December.
The suspect, who was arrested near his father’s home in the neighbouring town of Sevran, has not yet been questioned, but told police that he “knew why he had been detained”, Mr Bladier said.
An inquiry has been opened into the deaths and post-mortem examinations are to be carried out in Paris tomorrow.
People tied flowers to the railing outside the family’s flat and expressed shock at the deaths.
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The Paris region has seen a series of previous cases recently.
In November, a 41-year-old man confessed to killing his three daughters, aged four to 11.
Police found their bodies in his home in the town of Alfortville, in the southeastern suburbs of the capital.
A month earlier a police officer killed his three daughters before taking his own life at his home in Vemars, northeast of the capital.
On average, a woman is killed every three days in France. Some 118 women were killed by their partner or ex-partner in France last year.
Police registered 244,300 victims of domestic violence, mostly women, in 2022 – a 15% increase – in what rights groups believe is a sign that law enforcement is taking the problem more seriously.