Infanticides: anger, outcry, cry for help? When children are killed by familiar people

It is this bewilderment that remains.

Infanticides: anger, outcry, cry for help? When children are killed by familiar people

It is this bewilderment that remains. And the many, many unanswered questions. After two crimes against children in the southwest on Easter days, the suspicion in both cases is directed at close relatives. The mother is said to have contacted the police in Hockenheim near Heidelberg, and in Ulm it was the partner of the mother of a dead girl. In both cases, the search for the culprits could be completed quickly. However, there are still numerous unanswered questions about these two acts of the Easter holidays.

The mother of the two children killed in Hockenheim is suspected of murder, and an arrest warrant has been issued against the 43-year-old. She has admitted the act of violence against her sons, according to the public prosecutor. After the act on Sunday, she wrote to the Hockenheim police station and admitted to having done “something bad”, the judicial authority quoted from the letter on Tuesday.

Police officers discovered the bodies of the nine and seven-year-old siblings in the apartment. It is still unclear how the children were killed. An autopsy should provide insights on Tuesday, the spokeswoman said on request. It also remains unclear who lived in the apartment and where the children's father was at the time of the crime. The investigators have not yet commented on a possible motive for the crime and the criminal responsibility of the Germans.

Meanwhile, the investigators in Ulm are also working at full speed. There, a 40-year-old man is said to have killed his partner's seven-year-old daughter with a knife, a police spokesman said on Tuesday. The responsible magistrate at the district court issued a placement order for a psychiatric clinic, the Ulm public prosecutor's office and police later announced. The 40-year-old Serb is silent and does not provide any further information.

In this case, too, the police found out about the crime from the alleged perpetrator: When the police called the emergency services on Monday, he stated that he had killed the girl in the area of ​​a school center in the Wiblingen district. He was then arrested there. According to the police, it is "an act within a family".

"The confessions like those in Hockenheim and Ulm point to the irrationality," says youth rights expert Theresia Höynck from Hanover. Among other things, she has also researched homicides involving children under the age of six. "Killing of children by their parents is usually not an instrumental killing from which one has something, a profit, as in the case of a robbery-murder. There is a deeper reason." In a way, in a totally dysfunctional way, it's a cry for help.

Just one of several possible motives when children are killed by relatives or acquaintances. "Whoever is responsible for such acts is definitely in a psychological borderline situation," says Höynck of the German Press Agency. "There are almost always very serious crises, be it from the father or mother, when they act as perpetrators. You can be overwhelmed or desperate, it can also be anger: you want to hit the other massively, for example after a breakup, man wants to force the partner or ex-partner to cry out, take revenge." Such motives are often mixed up.

Psychoses combined with delusions and loss of reality can also be the cause of infanticide, says Harald Dreßing, head of forensic psychiatry at the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim. He cites conflicts between the parents as further motives - especially custody disputes in which children are killed in revenge on the partner. "A phenomenon that is already discussed in Greek mythology in the figure of Medea murdering children."

Mostly mothers are the perpetrators, says Dressing. About three quarters of the cases can be assigned to mothers and about ten percent to fathers. However, it's not about a large number: "Such cases are very rare," says Dressing. According to a very rough estimate based on projections from European and US studies, there are one to two cases of infanticide per 100,000 children per year, depending on the country.

Statistics from the investigators do not provide any information on how often children have become victims of their parents or close relatives in recent years. According to figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office, around one in ten victims of murder, manslaughter and killing on demand was a minor in the past year - regardless of their relationship with the perpetrator. Of 581 people counted in this category, 45 were under the age of 14 and 14 were teenagers. The numbers are similar to the pre-Corona year 2019.