Search for 'murdered' dead babies expands

3rd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

3 August 2005, FRANKFURT AN DER ODER, GERMANY - The search for newborn infants allegedly killed by their own mother expanded Wednesday amid a political furore over allegations that the former Communist regime created an atmosphere of violence and squalor in eastern Germany.

3 August 2005

FRANKFURT AN DER ODER, GERMANY - The search for newborn infants allegedly killed by their own mother expanded Wednesday amid a political furore over allegations that the former Communist regime created an atmosphere of violence and squalor in eastern Germany.

Searches continued at the site where the remains of nine babies were found on Sunday in the town of Brieskow-Finkenheerd near the Polish border. In addition, a home in Eisenhuettenstadt underwent combing by forensics specialists with sniffer dogs.

Police, who found tiny bones in an earth-filled aquarium and planter pots at the home of the babies' grandmother, searched a town garden used by the accused in Frankfurt an der Oder in case there were more dead.

The 39-year-old German woman who is alleged to have killed nine of her newborns and buried each in a plastic planter has told police she only remembers two of the births and was drunk during the others.

A political controversy was unleashed meanwhile with published remarks by the area's top law-enforcement official, Brandenburg Interior Minister Joerg Schoenbohm.

In an interview with Der Tagesspiegel newspaper, Schoenbohm said the regime of former communist East Germany was responsible for the squalid conditions in which the crime occurred.

He cited the "atmosphere of violence and coerced proletarianism" as being contributing factors.

Prosecutors said the nine births took place between 1988 and 1999, when Sabine H. was raising three older children.

"She says she can only remember the first two births," prosecutor Anette Bargenda told reporters.

H. (her surname was withheld under German news coverage rules) told police she gave birth to the nine at home and without help, prosecutors added.

Officials in Frankfurt an der Oder said her husband had often been absent. The feuding couple divorced this year.

The 39-year-old unemployed dental receptionist agreed under questioning that all nine bodies were those of her babies.

She said she always placed a blanket over the newborn after delivery and when she woke from her drunken stupor, the baby had always been dead. She did not admit to using force on any of them.

According to prosecutors, she said that she remembered the first two deliveries, but from the third of the nine births onwards, she had drunk a large amount of alcohol as soon as she went into labour and could later remember nothing about what happened.

Pathologists are to conduct DNA tests on the bones to establish whether the husband was the father of the dead children.

The grisly discovery was reportedly made when a hired hand came to clean out a garage over the weekend at H.'s childhood home in the town of Brieskow-Finkenheerd and stumbled across tiny human bones Sunday.

Shocked local residents said H., who has lived in Frankfurt city for many years, had only rarely visited the village, also close to Poland, to see one of her sisters and her mother who live at the house.

"When someone went to clean up the lot, he found human bones in an old aquarium," state prosecutor Ulrich Scherding said.

Like nearby flowerpots, it was still filled with soil.

Prosecutors believe she hid the tiny bodies in planters on the balcony of her high-rise, low-rent city apartment, taking the pots with her every time she moved home. They said she gave the impression she was relieved the case had finally come to light.

Officials said her four living children were a daughter, 21, two sons aged 20 and 18 and a daughter who is not yet 2.

Police had been called to a domestic incident in June this year when she had been quarrelling with a man friend and was drunk. Police noticed the 18-month-old daughter was neglected and took the child to the grandmother. The girl is now in municipal care.

Prosecutors said friends and relatives all denied having any notion that H. had ever been pregnant in the nine cases. German newspapers said others recalled she often wore loose clothing.

The killings apparently began before communist rule of the area ended in 1989 and continued as the region became blighted by unemployment and the social problems it brought with it.

The mayor of Frankfurt an der Oder, Martin Patzelt, said public authorities had never received the least clue of anything wrong.

The woman was remanded into custody on Monday by a judge. Legal analysts said that if the babies had not been stillborn, she could be indicted for infanticide, a form of manslaughter punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison, or murder, punishable by life.

The woman, pictured in newspapers with short hair cut in a fringe, was described by neighbours as a friendly person.

"We are faced with a crime whose scope, in my memory, we have never seen in the history of the federal republic" since 1945, said Brandenburg state Interior Minister Joerg Schoenbohm.

"We must ask ourselves how this unbelievable crime remained hidden all these years."

DPA

Subject: German news

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