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01 Jun 2006 13:54
A German court jailed a woman for 15 years on Thursday for killing eight of her newborn babies in the worst case of infanticide in the country’s criminal history.
The court, in Frankfurt an der Oder on the Polish border, convicted Sabine Hilschenz, a 40-year-old woman who has borne a total of 13 children, of eight counts of manslaughter.
The case has sparked soul-searching across Germany about a breakdown of social values in depressed areas of the former communist east.
Prosecutors, who demanded a life sentence for Hilschenz on murder charges, believe she killed a ninth baby in 1988 but the case expired under the statute of limitations.
The defence team for Hilschenz, an unemployed dental hygienist, argued that she was mentally disturbed and should serve three-and-a-half years for manslaughter.
The remains of the babies, buried in flowerpots, a fish tank and a baby’s plastic bathtub, were found last summer in a shed owned by her parents in a small town near Frankfurt an der Oder.
The horror of the discovery left Germans baffled about how the almost unbroken series of pregnancies and deaths between 1988 and 1998 could have gone unnoticed for so long.
Described by psychiatrists as sane and “extremely bright”, Hilschenz is believed to have had sex without contraception with her husband, who has said he was unaware of the pregnancies. He has not been charged.
She told investigators that as soon as the contractions began each time she went into labour, she drowned the pain in alcohol to the point that she passed out.
Each time she awoke, she said, she would find the lifeless body of a baby buried in potting soil on the balcony of her apartment.
Pathologists were unable to say whether the children were born alive or to determine the cause of death, because their remains were in an advanced state of decomposition when they were discovered.
They were, however, able to learn their sex: seven girls and two boys.—Sapa-AFP
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