Horror in Taiwan over siblings' abuse deaths

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwanese couple have been indicted over the abuse and deaths of three of their children whose bodies they then buried in hidden locations, in a crime that has shocked the island.

The father, identified by his family name Lee, admitted to beating two sons - aged seven-years-old and 10 months - before they died, prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday (Oct 18).

He was charged with causing injury leading to death while the children's mother was indicted for abandonment leading to death, both punishable by life imprisonment.

The cause of death of their six-month-old daughter was undetermined.

Lee, 37, denied abusing the baby, prosecutors said.

He and his partner surnamed Chen, 33, escaped murder charges as Lee claimed he "had no idea" his children would die, said Huang Yi-hua, a spokeswoman for the Yunlin prosecutor's office.

"Lee said he just wanted to teach the children a lesson when they were crying and screaming," she added.

But the case sparked an emotional public response, with some calling for the death penalty, which can be handed down for serious crimes in Taiwan.

Local media described the couple as "cold-blooded, horrifying parents".

"Even if they don't get sentenced to death by a judge, they will go to hell after they die," read one message left on the comment section on Apple Daily's website.

"They are animals, they should be shot dead," read another.

Prosecutors described Lee as unemployed and an alcoholic.

The children died between 2008 and 2013, when the couple were on the run for theft and fraud charges.

They buried their seven-year-old son near a river in central Yunlin county where Lee is from, said prosecutors.

Lee's father has been indicted for helping to dispose of the body. The remains of the six-month-old girl were buried in the backyard of Lee's father's home. The 10-month old was buried in northern Taoyuan.

When authorities finally caught up with the fugitive couple last year and arrested them for theft and fraud, they tried to locate the older son and became suspicious when they could not.

The couple said he had been adopted, but their eldest daughter told police her brother had been beaten to death.

Now aged 12, she is currently in foster care with two younger siblings.