German police search for woman after dead babies discovered

Woman (45) who lived in house where about seven bodies found described as ‘caring mother’

Crime scene investigators at a residential building in Wallenfels, Bavaria on Friday. The bodies of about seven babies were found at the home in the small southern German town. Photograph: Nicolas Armer/EPA

Crime scene investigators at a residential building in Wallenfels, Bavaria on Friday. The bodies of about seven babies were found at the home in the small southern German town. Photograph: Nicolas Armer/EPA

 

German police are searching for a 45-year-old woman after discovering the decomposing corpses of about seven newborn babies in a house in Bavaria.

The bodies were in such a bad state of decay that forensic experts said it was impossible to be precise about how many had been found.

The alarm was raised by a neighbour in the town of Wallenfels on Thursday. After finding one corpse, the neighbour called an ambulance. A doctor subsequently discovered further corpses.

It is believed that the sought woman – identified only as Andrea G – is the mother of the babies, although police said they had no confirmation of this. “We’re at least searching for her as if she were the mother of the children,” a police spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said postmortems were being carried out on the remains, and the results – including how the babies died, their ages and sexes – would probably be known early next week.

The bodies were discovered locked in a disused sauna-turned-store cupboard, wrapped in towels and airtight plastic bags, the spokeswoman said.

Germany has seen a string of infanticide cases over the last decade, which have raised questions about whether support for women and families is sufficient, and why women who may need help over issues of pregnancy and motherhood are not seeking it.

Caring mother

Andrea G had lived in the house for 18 years and is believed to be the owner of the property. Shocked residents of Wallenfels, which has a population of 2,800, told German media that she had often been pregnant, but that had not attracted any suspicion as she was a “good and caring mother” to her other children.

Wallenfell’s mayor, Jens Korn, told Focus magazine: “I’m completely flabbergasted. We are a small, lively community with 2,800 residents, all of whom know each other. We are very distraught, and are of course all asking each other: might we have done something? Might we have helped in some way?”

He told Bavarian Broadcasting that the family – a couple who both had children from previous relationships – were “very normal”. The man was deeply involved in the local community; the woman is believed to have worked at the local swimming baths.

A media throng gathered outside the whitewashed house on Friday, where children’s paper cutouts could be seen in the windows, and a Santa Claus figure by the door. Neighbours said the woman had left at the end of September, and they believed she had moved in with a new partner. Police said they had so far been unable to find her in her new home.

The police spokeswoman said that owing to the state and number of the corpses it would “take some time” to reach any conclusions. A criminal investigation has been launched involving scores of police officers. “There are still many people we need to speak to and lots of searches that need to be carried out,” the spokeswoman said.

A neighbour told the tabloid Bild that the scenes of the dead bodies were so appalling, “we will never ever divulge what we have seen here”.

Cover up

The Wallenfells discovery is just the latest of many cases involving attempts to cover up infanticide. In July 2005 the corpses of nine babies were discovered in Brieskow-Finkenheerd, in the state of Brandenburg. The mother, who had four other children, was an alcoholic and had given birth to the babies between 1988 and 1998. She had killed them through neglect and buried their remains in plant pots. She was later sentenced to 15 years in prison for murder.

In March 2013 a mother in the state of Schleswig Holstein was sentenced to nine years in prison for murdering five babies immediately after birth. One of the dead was found in a paper recycling plant in 2006; another the following year in a car park. The woman was not arrested until 2012, when a DNA test confirmed she was the babies’ mother. She subsequently showed police where she had hidden three more in her cellar.

In 2009 four dead babies were discovered in a block of flats in Berlin. Their mother had jumped to her death from the house months before.

There are no official statistics on infanticide in Germany, but the children’s charity Terre des Hommes says its own research showed at least 202 newborns were killed between 2006 and 2014.

Some parts of the country use “baby hatches” to enable women to hand newborns over to the authorities in complete anonymity, in the hope that this will reduce cases of infanticide.

Guardian service