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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 June 2006, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
German convicted over baby deaths
Sabine Hilschenz at her trial
Sabine Hilschenz said she was too drunk to remember the births
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.

See the house at the centre of the investigation

Dead babies find shocks Germany
02 Aug 05 |  Europe

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