Woman in Finland sentenced to life in prison for killing 5 newborns, hiding them in freezer

A picture taken on December 8, 2014 shows Meeri Palosaari (left), attorney of the prosecuted mother (right), during her trial for killing her newborns at the District Court of Oulu, Finland. -- PHOTO: AFP 
A picture taken on December 8, 2014 shows Meeri Palosaari (left), attorney of the prosecuted mother (right), during her trial for killing her newborns at the District Court of Oulu, Finland. -- PHOTO: AFP 

HELSINKI (AFP) - A Finnish court on Monday sentenced a 36-year-old woman to life in prison for killing her five newborns between 2005 and 2013 and hiding them in a freezer.

The Oulu district court in western Finland found the woman guilty of five counts of murder and five counts of disturbing the peace of the dead for failing to give the babies proper burials. "The homicides took place by leaving the newborns without care and warmth... Clearly this measure... caused particular agony to the babies," the court said in its ruling.

The woman, who has a 14-year-old son, had pleaded innocent and said the babies were all stillborn. But the court ruled on the basis of dental examinations that at least some of the babies had lived for up to four days before dying in a bucket where she had left them.

The horrific crimes were discovered in June 2014 when neighbours began to complain of a bad smell in the apartment building where a new couple had moved in. It was soon discovered that the woman had dumped the babies' bodies in garbage bags in the building's cellar. Previously she had managed to hide the bodies by keeping them in a freezer in her old apartment but there was no longer room for a freezer in the new apartment.

Court documents showed she had hid her pregnancies under loose clothing, and gave birth to the babies at home without anyone's knowledge.

District prosecutor Sari Kemppainen told AFP that all of the babies were born full-term or nearly full-term.

The fathers of the first two babies were not identified, but in 2010 she married a man and got pregnant a third time. She later told him she had suffered a miscarriage.

The husband went on to father two more babies, but was unaware of his wife's pregnancies or crimes. He petitioned for divorce immediately after the bodies were discovered.

When questioned by the police, the mother was unable to explain why she had opted to keep, and not bury, the bodies.

A life sentence in Finland usually amounts to about 12 years behind bars.