German mother jailed for killing babies

2nd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

A woman was sentenced to more than four years for killing three of her children and storing them in her freezer.

Siegen, Germany -- A German mother was sentenced to more than four years in jail on Monday for killing two of her babies whose bodies she stashed under pizzas in the family freezer.

She was not tried in connection with a third baby, also found in the freezer, who died over 20 years ago because the statute of limitations on the case had expired.

The 44-year-old housewife Monika Halbe, who was handed a four year and three month prison sentence for manslaughter at the end of a five-day trial, had admitted to hiding the bodies of three baby girls in the family freezer, but had denied killing them.

In the macabre case that has made national headlines, it was the defendant's 18-year-old son who had discovered the girls' tiny corpses in plastic bags in May when looking for a pizza in the basement freezer.

Prosecutors had demanded eight and half years in prison for Halbe before the court in this western town.

Halbe's lawyer Andreas Bartholome called for his client to be acquitted or given a suspended jail sentence, noting that the accused, who already had three children, had been deeply ambivalent about having more babies, was terrified of doctors and had suffered from alcoholism.

Prosecutors charged her with two counts of manslaughter for killing one daughter in 1988 and another between 2003 and 2007.

The one born in 1988, delivered in the family bathroom, was suffocated by being held close for several minutes. The second also died of a lack of oxygen.

The third girl is believed to have been killed in 1986 or 1987, also shortly after birth.

"She was not afraid of the babies being found," Bartholome said. "Above all, she wanted to have the babies near her."

Halbe's husband and the family's three grown children said they had been unaware of the pregnancies.

The presiding judge, Wolfgang Muenker, said there was "an incomprehensible lack of communication" between the accused and her husband.

Halbe, born the youngest of eight children, was trained as a dental assistant but gave up work after being bullied, according to the judge.

Her first sexual relations were "not consensual", the judge also said.

The accused suffered from "an irrational fear of doctors and especially of gynecological examinations", he added.

It was not immediately clear if either the prosecution or the defense would appeal the sentence.

Halbe is currently undergoing psychiatric treatment at her own request in a guarded facility.

The grim case revived a debate about the state of child welfare in Germany after several high-profile cases of killings by mothers came to light.


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