The murder of the 12-year old known as Lola shocked France

Lillers (France) (AFP) - A 12-year-old girl whose murder shocked France and sparked political controversy was laid to rest on Monday, after a mentally disturbed Algerian woman already targeted by an expulsion order was charged with the killing.

The brutal assault and murder of the girl known as Lola was branded as “evil” by President Emmanuel Macron after her body was found earlier this month in a trunk in Paris.

The killing prompted conservative and far-right critics to accuse his government of not doing enough to prevent illegal migration, while ministers shot back that such rebukes were inappropriate.

Lola’s family had called for political mudslinging to be set aside and for the young girl to be laid to rest in “respect and dignity” in the town of Lillers, in her home region in northern France.

Her parents, her brothers, other family members and a crowd – including Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, a Macron ally – were present when her white coffin, adorned with white flowers, was carried into the local church.

- ‘Didn’t have time’ -

“You left us much too soon,” Thibault, one of Lola’s older brothers, said at the ceremony. “I didn’t have time to tell you how much I love you.”

Bishop Olivier Leborgne, who presided over the ceremony, said: “Lola, who was 12, not only died too young, but under unbearable circumstances.”

Dozens of mourners followed the ceremony via loudspeakers set up outside the church.

“My grandchildren, who are the same age as Lola, wanted us to be here,” said Sabine Vizenski, one of the mourners gathered near the church.

“There are no words to describe what was done to that young girl,” said another, Thomas Maillot, who drove half an hour to pay his respects.

“It’s very important for me to be here,” he said.

The funeral mass was open to the public but the family wanted the actual burial in the cemetery to be strictly private.

- ‘Extreme evil’ -

Macron had on Friday spoken of the “atrociousness of the crime” which he described as an act of “extreme evil”.

Lola's parents had called for respect and dignity at the funeral

He praised the “dignified” behaviour of Lola’s family, who he said deserved “first and foremost the respect and affection of the nation”.

But the profile of the suspect – an Algerian woman named only as Dahbia B. who was the subject of an expulsion order – has prompted stinging criticism from the right and one of the most bitter political debates since Macron’s re-election in May.

She had overstayed a student visa and had failed to comply with a notice issued in August to leave France within 30 days.

On Monday, the 24-year-old was charged with the rape and murder of a minor aged under 15, along with torture and abuse.

In an at times rambling interview, the woman confessed that she had “committed harm of a sexual nature and other violent acts against (Lola) that caused her death, and hid her body in the trunk”, prosecutors said.

According to the autopsy, the young girl died due to “cardio-respiratory failure with signs of asphyxia and cervical compression”.

The investigation will now focus on whether the suspect was suffering from a psychiatric disorder at the time of the killing and if she can face criminal responsibility for the murder.

- ‘Honour the memory’ -

Eric Ciotti, MP from the right-wing Republicans (LR) party, had accused the government of “criminal… laxism” over migration, while extreme-right figure Eric Zemmour, an unsuccessful presidential candidate in May, had even described Lola’s killing as “Francocide”.

The far-right National Rally (RN) observed a minute of silence in parliament on Monday and the leader of its MPs, Marine Le Pen, insisted on the need for “answers” from the government.

In a statement sent to AFP on Friday, Lola’s parents called for an immediate end to “any use of the name and image of their child for political ends” so they could “honour the memory of their child in peace, respect and dignity”.

Separately, police have launched an investigation after one of their officers gave graphic details of the case in an interview with television channel BFMTV.

The interview, filmed in a way that concealed the officer’s identity, was broadcast on Friday.