True Crime

Mum from hell: She killed her kids to keep her lover

So horrifying

The temperature had come close to 30 degrees in the busy university city of Graz, in Austria.

Gertraud Arzberger, 33, and Johannes Genser, 39, were living in a multi-family apartment block.

They were part of an initiative to promote a more energy-efficient lifestyle. Each family had their own private space, but they shared facilities such as washing machines, tumble dryers and freezers.

On that hot June day in 2005, a young dad from the block headed down to the basement and rooted through the shared freezer, hoping to find ice-creams for his kids.

Instead, he made a truly gruesome discovery.

The body of a newborn baby, wrapped in a bag was hidden underneath joints of frozen meat.

The man called the police, who soon found a second baby in the freezer, also wrapped up and hidden amongst the food.

Horrifyingly, forensic tests showed both babies had been alive when they’d been put inside the freezer.

And, although the investigators couldn’t be certain, it seemed the babies might have been at the bottom of that shared freezer for as long as three years.

But there was more tragedy to be uncovered…

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The couple’s apartment block (Credit: Getty Images)

When police dogs were brought in to search the building, they found the bodies of two more babies.

They were in plastic buckets filled with concrete, hidden underneath a pile of rubbish at the back of a shed the residents also shared.

This time, it seemed the babies had been dead before they’d been hidden.

But the damage done to their tiny bodies by the concrete was so bad, it was impossible for police scientists to be sure.

One by one, the residents were questioned, until one of them broke down and confessed to the killings.

Gertraud Arzberger.

Without knowing she was pregnant, she said, she’d given birth each time in the bath.

Then, in shock, she’d murdered her newborns and hidden the remains.

Arzberger’s confession came as a great surprise to her neighbours.

She’d kept a clean and tidy home in the apartment block for the last three years with her partner, and they had seemed respectable enough.

How could she not have known she was pregnant?

And how could the astonishment of discovering she was in labour have driven her to kill her children?

DNA tests proved it.

Arzberger had been the mother of all four babies, Genser the father of at least three.

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Arzberger and Genser in court (Credit: Getty Images)

After she was arrested, though, Arzberger’s story changed. She said the babies had been born over a seven-year period.

Now she was claiming not to have killed them out of shock, but of sheer despair.

She and Genser were struggling for money. They simply couldn’t afford a child – let alone four.

Arzberger was a bookkeeper, while Genser was a carpenter. Even so, they struggled to make ends meet.

She had other worries too. Genser and Arzberger had been together eight years. But Arzberger was terrified having children would push Genser away.

So she’d killed her babies.

She’d sat quietly through the hearing. At times, she’d been in tears.

‘I’m sorry,’ she’d sobbed. ‘I can’t make everything alright again.’

However, despite her confession, the court couldn’t hand her four life sentences, as there was evidence to suggest one of the babies entombed in concrete had been stillborn.

So, instead, the judge gave her three life sentences.

Johannes Genser had also cried, on and off, throughout.

When his turn came to speak, he was defiant.

‘Not guilty,’ he pleaded.

In the witness stand, he admitted he’d told Arzberger he didn’t want her to get pregnant. Ever.

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Genser claimed he didn’t know about the pregnancies (Credit: Getty Images)

But then, Genser made a stunning revelation…

He claimed he hadn’t known about a single one of the pregnancies.

Which meant Arzberger had hidden the truth from him, given birth alone in the bath each time, killed her newborns and then hidden the bodies
– by herself – on four separate occasions.

‘Had I noticed anything, we would not be sitting here,’ Genser insisted to
the judge.

Next to take the witness stand were the couple’s neighbours. They said Arzberger’s swollen belly had been obvious all four times she was expecting.

So, had Genser simply missed the signs and just not noticed his girlfriend was pregnant?

If Genser was lying, it would mean he knew about the pregnancies and that he’d done nothing to save the babies.

It would make him an accessory in the murder of four innocent and defenceless children.

The jury retired to consider its verdict…

Johannes Genser was found guilty of being an accessory to murder, and jailed for 15 years.

As he was taken away, he begged for permission to propose to Arzberger, who had already been sentenced to life for murder.

‘Can I still offer her my hand?’ he asked.

‘No,’ was the judge’s stark reply.

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