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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Infanticide
Number of victims: 9
Date of murders: 1988 - 1998
Date of arrest: August 1, 2005
Date of birth: 1966
Victims profile: Her newborn babies (two boys and seven girls)
Method of murder: The prosecution alleges she wrapped them up and abandoned them until they died
Location: Brieskow-Finkenheerd, Brandenburg, Germany
Status: Sentenced to 15 years in prison on July 13, 2006
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Sabine Hilschenz is a German woman who was convicted on the 1st June 2006 of infanticide of eight of her own children. The bodies of the babies were found buried in a fish tank and in buckets and flower pots in her parents' garden. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison for eight cases of manslaughter.


German mother jailed for killing 8 babies

April 7, 2008

A German appeals court on Monday confirmed a 15-year prison sentence handed to a woman for killing eight of her newborn babies in the country's worst post-war infanticide case.

The court in Frankfurt an der Oder in eastern Germany found that the fact 42-year-old Sabine Hilschenz was an alcoholic did not reduce her accountability for the crime.

“The verdict took into consideration that eight people were killed without having a chance to even begin their lives,” said presiding Judge Barbara Sattler.

The divorced, unemployed dental assistant was found guilty of eight counts of manslaughter in 2006 for routinely killing her offspring. Hilschenz had told investigators that she did not harm the children but left them to die after giving birth alone every time following heavy drinking.

The remains of the babies were found in buckets and flowerpots at the home she shared with her husband, and in an old fish tank at the home of her parents in the town of Brieskow-Finkenheerd in former communist east Germany.

Hilschenz gave birth to nine babies - two boys and seven girls - between 1988 and 1998. She was also accused of killing the first of the nine babies, born in 1988, but the lower court ruled that the time in which she could be charged in connection with that death had lapsed.

Hilschenz divorced her husband, who was believed to have worked for the feared East German secret police, the Stasi, in 2005 after years of marital strife. The couple have three surviving children and the court heard that he had not wanted any more.

He declined to testify in the trial, but a separate investigation has been launched into his role in the affair.


Mother who killed nine babies speaks out

February 14, 2008

A woman from the eastern German state Brandenburg told a court that isolation and alcoholism drove her to kill nine of her newborn babies over the years.

Sabine Hilschenz from Frankfurt an der Oder hid the remains of her children in flower pots, buckets and a garden fish tank. Hilschenz, who has three grown up children and a young daughter, told the court that her isolation and alcoholism were behind the killings.

“I did not have friendship,” the 42-year old woman told the court. She said that Oliver Hilschenz, the first man with whom she had sexual contact, was the love of her life. However, she said neither her husband nor her parents provided her with companionship.

It became clear during her first trial that she did not want her husband to know about her pregnancy. The woman who has been pregnant 13 times said that contraception was never discussed in her family. Sabine Hilschenz also said that she was an alcoholic and did not have her addiction under control.

"We already had three children, and my husband didn't want any more children," she said, according to the transcript read in court. "I always hoped my husband would notice the pregnancies of his own accord," Sabine Hilschenz added.

Sabine Hilschenz gave birth to the first baby in a toilet bowl, submerging its head in water while her husband slept in the next room. In 1992 she gave birth in a small hotel while on a business trip in Goslar. She left the baby under a blanket and ignored its whimpers until they stopped.

Too scared to go to a gynaecologist for fear of discovery, Hilschenz kept the next seven pregnancies secret. When her labour began, she would get drunk enough not to recall if the babies were born dead or alive. She wrapped other babies in plastic sheets and left them in flower pots.

“I thought that she had a weight problem,” Oliver Hilschenz said in a police interrogation. He denies knowledge of the pregnancies. DNA tests show that all the babies were his.

This case has raised questions about the society in the former East Germany. Many Germans are asking how neighbours and especially family members failed to notice.

Jörg Schönbohm (CDU), Minister of the Interior for Brandenburg, has suggested that decades of brutal communist rule in the former East Germany could have caused a more brutal society. Three times as many babies have been found dead in eastern Germany as in western Germany in the past decade. Schönbohm’s remarks drew heavy criticism as many perceived his conclusion to stem from western German arrogance. The CDU politician grew up in the former West Germany.

Sabine Hilschenz was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2006 for the murder of eight children between 1992 and 1998. The ninth child’s murder was covered by a statute of limitations. The Brandenburg court is hearing an appeal against the severity of the sentence. Hilschenz was said by friends to be a good mother to her four surviving children.


Mother who killed eight babies is jailed for 15 years

By Luke Harding -

June 2, 2006

A woman who killed eight of her newborn babies, burying them in flowerpots and a fish tank, was jailed for 15 years yesterday in the worst case of infanticide in modern German history. Sabine Hilschenz, 40, an unemployed dental assistant from east Germany, was given the maximum sentence after a court found her guilty of eight counts of manslaughter.

She was suspected of the death of a ninth child in 1988, but the statute of limitations did not allow the case to be tried. Her lawyer said she would appeal against the verdict. Hilschenz was arrested after the remains of the infants were found last July in the garden of her parents' home near the German-Polish border.

The gruesome discovery helped to prompt a government drive to improve protection for children. Hilschenz declined to testify at her trial, which opened in April. But earlier she told German detectives that she was drunk when she went into labour and was unable to remember the births.

The court said she had deliberately concealed her crimes by disposing of her babies' bodies afterwards. "We are convinced that the defendant committed manslaughter by neglect in eight cases," the presiding judge, Matthias Fuchs, told the state court in Frankfurt an der Oder.

Hilschenz had said that she and her then-husband already had three children and he did not want more. "She feared that her husband would leave her and take the children with him," Judge Fuchs said.

He said the death of the first child in 1988 "formed the basis for what happened later", and that her inhibitions shrank with the death of each of the other infants, which were born between 1992 and 1998.

Before the trial began the court reduced the charges from murder on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Her defence team argued she should be convicted of only one count of manslaughter and sentenced to three-and-a-half years, maintaining it could not be established conclusively that seven of the babies were born alive. Judge Fuchs, however, said that "there are plenty of indications that all the children were alive".


German convicted over baby deaths

June 1, 2006

A German woman has been found guilty of the manslaughter of eight of her newborn babies. A ninth baby also died, but too long ago to allow prosecution.

Sabine Hilschenz, 40, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the maximum jail term the court could give.

The bodies were found buried in a fish tank and in flower pots and buckets in her parents' garden in a village in east Germany, near the Polish border.

It is thought the babies were born and died between 1988 and 1998.

DNA tests had shown that Hilschenz and her ex-husband Oliver were the parents of all nine dead newborns.

'Appeal planned'

A jobless dental assistant, Hilschenz did not give evidence at her trial but had previously told investigators she did not harm the babies, but let them die after giving birth alone.

She said she already had three children, and her husband did not want any more babies.

Hilschenz had originally been charged with murder but the court reduced this to manslaughter before her trial began because it did not feel there was enough proof that she had tried to conceal her crimes.

Prosecutor Anette Bargenda said she planned to study the verdict in detail to see whether the court was right to decide against a murder conviction, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Hilschenz's lawyer said his client would appeal against the verdict.

"We don't know how long the children lived, my client can't remember burying or hiding the children, which brings up the question of whether someone else did it," Matthias Schoeneburg said.

'Could not remember'

Judge Matthias Fuchs told the state court in Frankfurt an der Oder: "We are convinced that the defendant committed manslaughter by neglect in eight cases".

He said Hilschenz committed the crimes because she "feared that her husband would leave her and take the children with him".

Judge Fuchs said the death of her first child in 1988 "formed the basis for what happened later", and she found it gradually easier to allow her other eight babies to die.

The court heard that Hilschenz told police that when she was pregnant for the fourth time, she gave birth to the baby in a toilet and the baby allegedly drowned.

She said she could not remember what happened with her other pregnancies because she had drunk large quantities of alcohol each time she went into labour, and did not know if the babies had been born dead or alive.

Her husband, relatives and neighbours all said they had been unaware of her pregnancies.

The bodies were discovered after a neighbour found human bones while clearing up Hilschenz parents' garage in Brieskow-Finkenheerd, in Brandenburg state.

The case has sparked intense media interest in Germany, with politicians arguing over whether it symbolises the breakdown of family values in depressed areas of the country's formerly communist east.


Mother who let nine babies die

By Hannah Cleaver in Berlin -

April 28, 2006

A German woman accused of killing nine of her newborn babies and burying them in balcony window boxes has appeared in court for the first time, charged with manslaughter.

The trial of Sabine Hilschenz, 40, is Germany's worst case of alleged infanticide and has provoked huge debate on the state of society in the former communist east.

Hilschenz, a dental assistant who, with her husband Oliver, was active in the Stasi secret police, gave birth to the first victim in 1988, before the communist regime collapsed.

The couple lived with three children in a block of flats known to be home to many Stasi members in Frankfurt an der Oder, a small town on the border with Poland.

Hilschenz refused to address the court in the town and her lawyer read from a statement made last August.

In it Hilschenz said her husband did not want more children and she feared his reaction to her 1988 pregnancy. She kept it a secret from him and gave birth in the lavatory while he slept, leaving the baby in the lavatory bowl.

In 1992 she gave birth in a small hotel while on a business trip in Goslar. She left the baby under a blanket and ignored its whimpers until they stopped. She took the body home and buried it.

Her fear of a gynaecologist asking questions that might uncover those two pregnancies prevented her from going to see a doctor and she covered up the next seven pregnancies from family and neighbours.

Each time contractions started she would get so drunk, she said, that she can barely remember what happened during the births or how the babies died - even whether they were born alive.

The prosecution alleges she wrapped them up and abandoned them until they died.

Mr Hilschenz, 43, who has left her, will be called as a witness but has denied knowledge of the pregnancies.


Germany takes long look inward

By Andreas Tzortzis -  The New York Times

August 6, 2005

BRIESKOW-FINKENHEERD, Germany — Just outside the property where the remains of nine newborns were found this week, a small makeshift memorial of flowers and stuffed bears rests against the garden's wooden fence. "Why why why?" asks a poster behind the flowers.

The discovery of the remains hidden in cans and an aquarium in the garage at the home of Sabine Hilschenz's mother, stunned this quiet East German village near the Polish border. Hilschenz, the 39-year-old unemployed mother of the nine infants, was arrested.

She told the police that she had "something to do" with the deaths of two of the children, but couldn't remember the deaths of the seven others because she spent long stretches in an alcoholic stupor, according to the chief prosecutor, Ulrich Scherding.

The story has shocked Germany and unleashed a debate among politicians, psychologists and editorial writers about who bears responsibility for not uncovering the deaths earlier.

Her husband, with whom she had a rocky relationship until he moved out in 2001, and their three children apparently never realized Hilschenz had been pregnant each time. All four were questioned this week and were not under investigation, said Scherding.

Some criticized Hilschenz's neighbors in Frankfurt an der Oder, an industrial city with high unemployment rates, where she has lived since 1984, for not paying more attention or reporting any irregularities.

Others, like the Brandenburg State interior minister, Jörg Schönbohm, took it even further and blamed the legacy of the former East Germany for creating a sense of "indifference" and a "loss of values" among people living in his state's rural areas.

Almost everyone, from the local baker to the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, was quick to criticize those comments, made to the newspaper Tagesspiegel.

"You can't and shouldn't try to explain such a horrible crime with such blanket assessments," said Angela Merkel, the head of Schönbohm's Christian Democratic Union and a candidate for chancellor.

Edith Wolber, an ethnologist, said that the fact that few people realized what was going on with Hilschenz pointed to an overriding sense of indifference not just in the rural parts of the East, but across Germany.

"We are a society that doesn't necessarily look closer," said Wolber, who is also spokeswoman for the German Association of Midwives. "Everyone says afterward, 'We never noticed anything."' She added: "I don't think we are very perceptive, and I think we're afraid of confrontation. Germans like to look the other way."

Following her arrest, Hilschenz said that the deaths occurred between 1988 and 1999 while she was married and had already had three children. She has since had another.

"She said she drank a lot and when she woke up from her alcoholic stupor, she realized that the children were already buried," Scherding said in an interview.

The police believe all nine died shortly after they were born.

After a court gave custody of their children to her husband in 2002, Hilschenz's life continued to spiral downward, said Scherding. The police arrested her in 2003 for petty theft. German tabloids reported that she drank heavily, had different boyfriends and had a daughter with one of them in 2003.

"We are trying to piece together what she did in the last few years," said Scherding.

A psychiatrist will evaluate Hilschenz in the coming months and produce a report on her sanity. Scherding said that she has been calm in her jail cell and added that one of his prosecutors said she seemed relieved she could finally talk about the events.



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