A mother has been convicted of killing four of her newborn babies, in one of Germany’s worst ever cases of infanticide.
Andrea Goeppner, 45, will spend 14 years in jail for manslaughter after the remains of multiple infants were discovered wrapped in towels and plastic bags in her home by her step-daughter, according to the Guardian.
As many as eight bodies were hidden in a disused sauna, behind a rafter in the bathroom of the house, but three were so badly decomposed it was not possible for authorities to ascertain how they had died.
One was stillborn.
Presiding judge Christoph Gillot stopped short of handing down a life sentence for the crime, arguing Goeppner had not killed the babies out of “blatant self-interest”, but rather to “keep her existing family intact”.
“When a case like this is tried, you suddenly have a lot of people who know what the right thing to do is — that a supposed ‘horror mother’ should be locked away forever,” he told the court, according to the ABC.
“But we first must try to understand this behaviour. That doesn’t mean justifying it but rather trying to comprehend it.”
Goeppner confessed in a statement read by her lawyer, but admitted she could not remember how many babies she had killed.
For 10 years she was constantly pregnant as she and her ex-husband, Johann, did not use contraceptions and both refused to be sterilised.
Her family has continually denied any knowledge of the pregnancies, despite Göppner’s fluctuating weight and a drunken admission that she had once given birth.
Her step daughter Nina had her suspicions, however, and said she had been haunted by the memory.
“There’s a saying that small children and drunks tell the truth,” she told the court before explaining her decision to search the house.
That was when she discovered a stinking plastic box hidden in the disused sauna.
“We opened the box and found a bloody towel. It was clear I was going to find something I did not want to find,” she recalled through tears.
Johann Göppner has since demolished the sauna, but continues to live in the house with four of his children.
He was acquitted of charges of complicity for failing to stop his wife.