Mother Charged With Killing Her Babies Goes to Jail | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.04.2008
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Mother Charged With Killing Her Babies Goes to Jail

A German court on Monday, April 8, confirmed a 15-year prison sentence for a woman accused of killing eight of her newborn babies in the worst case of infanticide since World War II.

Sabine Hilschenz, with her lawyer

Sabine Hilschenz originally received a 15-year sentence for infanticide in 2006

The court in Frankfurt an der Oder in eastern Germany said that despite the fact that the mother, 42-year-old Sabine Hilschenz, was an alcoholic, she was still accountable for her crimes.

Hilschenz, a divorced, unemployed dental assistant, had been found guilty of eight counts of manslaughter in 2006 for routinely killing her children.

But Germany's highest appeals court threw out the sentence last year and ordered a new hearing, saying the original court had not properly reviewed the mother's mental state. If she had been found to have been unaware of her actions, she might have been eligible for a reduced sentence.

Sabine Hilschenz

The mother gave birth alone after heavy drinking, then left her babies to die

The woman had told investigators that she did not harm the babies outright, but left them to die after giving birth alone every time following drinking binges.

Hilschenz said of her crimes: "I cannot explain it, I cannot understand it. I would be grateful if I only knew what happened."

Bodies found among garden utensils

The remains of the newborns were found wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed in buckets and flowerpots at the home she shared with her husband, and in an old fish tank at her parents' property in the town of Brieskow-Finkenheerd.

Hilschenz gave birth to nine babies altogether between 1988 and 1998.

She was accused of killing the first of the nine children, born in 1988, but the lower court found that the time in which she could be charged for that crime had lapsed.

In 2005, Hilschenz divorced her husband -- who was thought to have worked for the East German secret police, the Stasi -- after years of marital turmoil.

A demonstration of the first baby hatch opened in Hamburg in 2000

Baby hatches are intended to help save lives

The judge in the original case said Hilschenz had let the children die because she thought they could pose a risk to her marriage.

The couple has three surviving children. The father had apparently not wanted any more.

He declined to testify in Hilschenz's trial, but a new investigation has been launched into his role in the crimes.

Hatches to help combat infanticide

The infanticide case is considered the worst in postwar Germany, but reports of such crimes on a lesser scale are common in the media.

In an effort to save lives, some hospitals and outreach centers have installed "hatches" where desperate mothers can deposit unwanted babies. Once a baby is placed inside a heated hatch, an alarm goes off, alerting personnel to a new delivery.

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