German police say mother drugged and suffocated five children

Text message to woman’s mother: ‘Send police to the apartment, the children are dead’

German police say five children killed by their 27-year-old mother on Thursday were most likely sedated and then suffocated, before the woman made an apparent attempt to take her own life at a train station.

The dead children were three girls aged one to three – Melina, Leonie and Sophie – and two boys, Timo and Luca, aged six and eight.

According to lead investigator Marcel Maierhofer, the children were found lying on their beds with breakfast dishes still on the kitchen table.

“We have indications of suffocation and sedation . . . with an as-yet unknown agent, the toxicology tests are not completed,” said Heribert Kaune-Gebhardt from the state prosecutor’s office in Wuppertal.


The children had three different fathers, police said, but the mother is their only suspect in the killings.

The woman’s mother contacted police in the western city of Solingen after receiving a text message from her daughter at lunchtime on Thursday reading: “Send the police to the apartment, the children are dead.”

The woman’s eldest son, Marcel (11), survived and police say it is likely the other children were killed on Thursday morning when he was at school. According to a family friend, the mother called his school to say there had been a death in the family. She met the boy, took him along to the train station and they boarded a regional train.

On reaching Düsseldorf central station she told her son, unaware his siblings were dead, that she had a doctor’s appointment in the city and that he should travel to her mother, 20km away in Mönchengladbach.

She disembarked at Düsseldorf central station and, at about 1.45pm, she made an apparent attempt to take her own life. She remains in a serious condition in hospital with “internal but not life-threatening injuries”.

Some 15 minutes later, the bodies of the children were discovered in the family apartment in Solingen, 20km east of Düsseldorf.

‘Emotionally overwhelmed’

Police said on Friday that the woman had separated a year ago from one of the fathers of her children, and was likely “emotionally overwhelmed” at the time of the killings.

Social services in Solingen said they were aware of the family, and had offered assistance in recent months, but had noticed no conspicuous problems.

Investigators said they would interview the mother as soon as she was physically and mentally stable. Police were unable to say on Friday why she spared her eldest son, who is now living with his grandmother.

Police said they had yet to question him, saying: “Our first priority is how we can help the child, all in all.” A friend shared with the Bild tabloid a text message, purportedly from the 11-year-old, reading: “I wanted to say that I can’t come over because all my siblings are dead.”

Neighbours in Solingen held a vigil outside the apartment block all day Thursday, laying flowers and lighting candles as police continued their investigation inside.

“How desperate do you have to be,” asked one neighbour, “to kill your own children?”

Armin Laschet, state premiere of North Rhine-Westphalia, said: “The thoughts of many, many people are now with the family and relatives.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin