Austrian mother pleads guilty to killing, then freezing bodies of four children

By The Associated Press

Tuesday March 28, 2006

GRAZ, Austria — A woman accused of killing her five children — including two who were still alive when she put them into a freezer — pleaded guilty in Austria to four counts of murder at the start of her trial Tuesday.

The woman denied killing a fifth child shortly after its birth, despite testimony by neighbours of an additional pregnancy.

Meanwhile, her male companion, charged with killing four of the children, pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Both were charged in June after police discovered the bodies of two newborns in a basement freezer of an apartment complex in southern Austria. The remains of two more were entombed in paint buckets filled with cement.

Autopsies indicated that the two infants found in the freezer were still alive when put inside, wrapped in plastic bags.

"I feel guilty of killing my four children," said the 33-year-old woman who, according to Austrian custom, was not named.

The woman’s companion, 39, has insisted he was unaware of the pregnancies and played no role in either the slayings or the disposal of the bodies, but authorities say they do not believe it was possible because of the number of births. The two lived together for eight years.

A homicide conviction usually carries a minimum 10-year prison sentence in Austria. The maximum penalty is 25 years.

Prosecutor Johannes Winklhofer, in opening comments quoted by the Austria Press Agency, described the killings as "actions carried out with cold single-mindedness, and characterized the mother’s companion as "a murderer just like her."

The trial was adjourned until today.