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Four slain newborns discovered in Austria
Updated: 2005-06-04 10:49

Police in southern Austria said Friday they made a gruesome discovery ! the bodies of four slain newborns stuffed into a freezer, entombed with cement in a paint bucket or hidden beneath debris at an apartment complex.

Investigators said the infants' 32-year-old mother confessed to killing them out of despair over her inability to pay the bills and fear that having a child might drive away her longtime male partner. Police found three bodies earlier this week and a fourth on Friday afternoon during a search of the premises.

Austrian police stand in a shed near a house in the city of Graz, southeastern Austria, June 3, 2005. The bodies of four babies have been found at a house in Austria -- two in a freezer, one in a bucket of concrete and another in a nearby shed -- police said on Friday. REUTERS/
Austrian police stand in a shed near a house in the city of Graz, southeastern Austria, June 3, 2005. The bodies of four babies have been found at a house in Austria -- two in a freezer, one in a bucket of concrete and another in a nearby shed -- police said on Friday.[Reuters]
Authorities said both the woman and her companion were placed under formal investigation for murder.

The grisly killings, which authorities said may have begun as long as three years ago, stunned the tranquil alpine nation, where multiple homicides and other violent crimes are rather unusual.

Police said two of the bodies were found in the freezer of an apartment building in Graz, about 120 miles south of Vienna a few miles from the birthplace of film star and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Authorities arrested the suspect and her 38-year-old partner on Thursday, police said.

Austrian state broadcaster ORF said two bodies were wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed in the freezer, and a third ! a newborn girl ! was placed in a paint bucket that was filled with cement to conceal the remains.

Specially trained police sniffer dogs led investigators to the body in the bucket, ORF reported. Police were searching the house and an adjacent garden shed for clues to the killings Friday when they came across the fourth body, wrapped in a plastic bag beneath a pile of debris in the shed, officials said.

Graz's Kleine Zeitung newspaper reported Friday that the first of the bodies was discovered on Monday by a resident of the multifamily apartment block when the man ! who went down to the basement to get ice cream for his children ! opened a chest freezer shared by the building's occupants.

Stunned, the tenant called police, who later located two other bodies ! one hidden beneath frozen meat and vegetables at the bottom of the freezer.

Although police initially kept open the possibility that the infants may have been stillborn, evidence at the scene quickly pointed to the newborns' slayings before their bodies were stuffed in the freezer, police said in a statement.

The suspect, a bookkeeper whose name was not released in line with Austrian privacy laws, lived in the building with her partner for the past eight years, authorities said. Neighbors described the woman as "a real mensch" who worked hard to keep a tidy house and a beautiful yard.

Police Lt. Col. Werner Jud told reporters Friday the suspect was not entirely coherent during questioning, but told investigators she gave birth to all the babies in her bathtub.

Police told the Austria Press Agency they believed the bodies may have been placed in the freezer as long as three years ago.

APA cited investigators as saying the woman confessed during questioning, saying she was in despair over her ability to survive and worried that she would lose her companion if she had a child.

Her partner allegedly told police he was unaware of her pregnancies and insisted he played no role in either the slayings or the hiding of the bodies.

Autopsies were held, but results had not been released as of Friday morning, officials said. They said the forensic examination was held up by the need to first slowly thaw the frozen remains of the infants found in the freezer.

Jud said DNA tests would be carried out on the woman's companion to determine if he was the babies' father.

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