French mother gets 20 years jail for murdering 5 of her children

Colmar (France) (AFP) –


A French court on Thursday jailed for 20 years a woman who killed five of her children right after they were born, a crime that was only solved over a decade after the corpses were discovered.

The jury in Colmar in eastern France followed the recommendations of prosecutors in giving 55-year-old Sylvie Horning a 20-year prison term.

Horning was found guilty of murdering the five children between 1990 and 2005.

The mother of three adult children hid her pregnancies from her partner, giving birth in secret and then strangling the newborns at her house in the eastern town of Wittelsheim.

Nothing untoward was suspected until the discovery in 2003 of the bodies of four babies in rubbish bags in the nearby Galfingue forest.

But the initial investigation was closed in 2009 after it failed to yield any clues over who was behind the infants' deaths.

The probe was reopened in 2016 to take advantage of advances in DNA testing, and a year later investigators made a link between Horning and the babies, completely by chance, after her DNA was taken in a separate case following a fight with neighbours.

The samples revealed her to be the mother of the dead children.

Horning admitted to strangling five of her children after giving birth to them in secret in a bathroom.

The body of the fifth baby was found in a freezer at her home.

Her partner, who died in 2018, had said he was completely unaware of the events.

- 'Considered as things' -

The defence argued that Horning's psychological state at the time of the killings should be taken into account in deciding her sentence.

As the verdict was read out she remained still but then began sobbing.

"She needs to appeal. Twenty years is excessive, it is nearly a record for France," said her lawyer Roland Moeglen.

The state prosecutor Melody Barbuti told the court in Colmar that the trial has shown Horning "did not love these babies, she considered them as things".

During the trial Horning had become emotional when relating the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her stepfather.

She claimed that the children "were not babies for me but beings that my body and spirit did not accept."

"I regret having done so much harm to these babies and my family," she told the court, adding that she loved her three other children and would "accept all the sentences, even if it is 30 years in prison."

"If I was told 'you die tonight', I would accept it immediately."

In her testimony Horning confirmed giving birth to the five children in her bathroom and concealing what was happening from her partner, with whom she spent 34 years.

She only told him she was pregnant with their first two children in the last weeks of her pregnancy and the youngest just hours before she was born.

Those children -- a son and two daughters who have all renounced their mother -- were present at her sentencing.

During the trial her daughter, 29, told the court: "This is a woman but it is not a mother, she should never have had a child."