BRUSSELS – A Belgian woman who murdered her five children in a case that shocked the country has been euthanised at her own request, 16 years to the day after their killing, her lawyer said on Thursday.
Genevieve Lhermitte slit the throats of her son and four daughters – named Yasmine, Nora, Myriam, Mina and Medhi, who were aged three to 14 – with a kitchen knife at the family home in the town of Nivelles on Feb 28, 2007, while their father was away.
She then tried to commit suicide by stabbing herself, but the attempt failed and she ended up calling the emergency services.
She was sentenced to life in prison in 2008, before being moved to a psychiatric hospital in 2019.
The 56-year-old’s lawyer, Mr Nicolas Cohen, confirmed to AFP reports in local media that his client had died through euthanasia on the 16th anniversary of the killings on Tuesday.
Belgian law allows for people to choose to be euthanised if they are deemed to be suffering from “unbearable” psychological, and not just physical, suffering that cannot be healed.
The person must be conscious of their decision and be able to express their wish in a reasoned and consistent manner.
“It is this specific procedure that Lhermitte followed, with the various medical opinions having been collected,” her lawyer said.
Psychologist Emilie Maroit told the RTL-TVI channel that Lhermitte likely chose to die on Feb 28 in a “symbolic gesture in respect for her children”.
“It may also have been for her to finish what she started because basically she wanted to end her life when she killed them,” Ms Maroit said.
The quintuple murder in 2007 and the subsequent trial rocked Belgium.
Lhermitte’s lawyers argued that their client, who had seen a psychiatrist regularly, was mentally disturbed and should not be sent to prison.
But the jury found her guilty of pre-meditated murder and sentenced her to life in jail after hearing conflicting medical expertise.
In 2010, Lhermitte filed a civil lawsuit demanding up to €3 million (S$4.3 million) from a former psychiatrist alleging that his “inaction” had failed to prevent the murders, but she ended up abandoning the legal battle after 10 years without success.
Last year, 2,966 people died via euthanasia in Belgium, an increase of 10 per cent compared with 2021, according to the authorities.
Cancer remains the No. 1 reason cited, but officials said for nearly three out of four requests, the patient presented “several types of suffering, both physical and psychological”. AFP