Dutch police arrest woman over deaths of 4 babies

LEEUWARDEN, The Netherlands Fri Aug 6, 2010 6:46pm BST

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LEEUWARDEN, The Netherlands (Reuters) - Dutch police said on Friday they had arrested a 25-year-old woman on suspicion of killing four of her babies over an eight-year period, echoing a similar case in France last week.

Authorities said they searched the woman's house in a rural village in the north of the Netherlands and found four suitcases in the attic, each containing the remains of babies. Initially, only three bodies had been confirmed to have been found.

Police say suspicions were raised when a resident alerted police, saying there was uncertainty about the births.

The woman had said she gave the children up for adoption, but later confessed to putting their bodies in suitcases.

"She could not give a plausible explanation over the pregnancies and the babies that were born. She was then arrested on August 4 in consultation with the public prosecution as a suspect and a search was conducted in the parental home," police commissioner Wim van Essen said at a news conference.

It is not clear whether the babies -- born between 2002 and 2010 -- were born alive, said Leeuwarden prosecutor Annette Bronsvoort at the news conference, held at the Leeuwarden court.

"It is terrible, the village is in shock," said a local resident in the village of Nij Beets, about 140 km (87 miles) northeast of Amsterdam, who declined to be named. "The woman is very well-known in the village," he added by telephone.

The police commissioner said the woman's parents, who live at the same address, had been moved out of the house while the police search continued. The parents say they were not aware of the pregnancies and are not suspects in the case, police said.

"This event has had an enormous impact in the community," Francisca Ravestein, the local regional mayor said.

The case comes just a week after a 47-year-old woman in France confessed to suffocating eight of her new-born babies and hiding their bodies.

Nij Beets is a small, tree-lined village in the heart of the quieter, rural north of the Netherlands and counts only a dozen streets. The biggest town in the area is Drachten.

A police and two private security cars were at opposite ends of the street where the woman lived to restrict access to the dozens of national media camped outside. Police also checked people's driving licences to see if they lived in the area.

"It affects us very deeply," said one local businessman.

The woman's home was an immaculate, neat row-house behind hip-high bushes that showed no outward indications of what could have been going on inside.

It was located half a block from a school zone where six children were seen playing on the street, ignoring the police and press that had gathered there late on Friday.

In 2006, a Dutch woman was sentenced to prison and psychological treatment after she drowned four of her babies after birth.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Gray-Block and Marcel Michelson in Amsterdam; Editing by Peter Graff)

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