April 27, 2006

German woman accused of killing babies goes on trial

By Kerstin Rebien

FRANKFURT AN DER ODER, Germany (Reuters) - A German mother
accused of killing nine newborn babies over the course of a
decade and burying them in flower pots went on trial on
Thursday in a case that has shocked the nation.

Lawyers for the 40-year old woman, identified as Sabine H.
from the eastern city of Frankfurt an der Oder, said at the
start of the trial that their client would not take the stand
to defend herself.

The unemployed dental assistant is charged with eight
counts of manslaughter as the statute of limitations on the
first of the nine deaths has expired. She faces up to 15 years
in prison if convicted.

Police in the eastern state of Brandenburg discovered the
bones of nine newborns buried in flower pots, buckets and a
fish tank after a neighbor of the woman's parents stumbled upon
the remains of some of the babies while clearing out their
garage last July.

The woman has told investigators that she was alone when
she gave birth to the babies and in most of the cases under the
influence of large amounts of alcohol.

She admits to having left the first two to die, but denies
intentionally killing them and says she cannot remember the
circumstances of the last seven deaths because she was in a
drunken stupor.

"I did not kill them deliberately. I just left them alone
and didn't take care of them," she said of the first two babies
in a pre-trial deposition that was read out in court by chief
judge Matthias Fuchs.


The deaths of the babies, which occurred between 1988 and
1998, has been described as postwar Germany's worst series of
child killings and sparked shock that the crime went undetected
for so long.

The woman has said that her former husband, who fathered
the seven girls and two boys that died, spent long periods away
from home because of their marital problems and was not aware
of her pregnancies.

The couple had three children that are now grown before the
deaths took place and the woman has one two-year old child by
another man.

A day after her arrest last year, Sabine H. spoke of a
"vicious circle" that began with her fourth pregnancy in 1988.

Her husband had been against having more children, she
said, and she had kept the pregnancy secret from him,
eventually giving birth over the toilet where the baby
allegedly drowned.

The woman said she then began drinking heavily to banish
the vision of her "blue faced" baby from her mind. She did not
consider getting abortions over the years because of fears that
a doctor would discover her prior births.

In preliminary proceedings, she described putting the dead
babies in plastic bags and then burying them in flower pots,
some of which she kept on her balcony to be near her children.

Prosecutors had initially wanted Sabine H. to face murder
charges but the court ordered the charges reduced to
manslaughter because the crimes occurred against a backdrop of
alcohol abuse and family problems.