A 37-year-old Czech woman has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering her four children. The Regional Court in Hradec Králové, in eastern Bohemia, on Friday rejected the woman’s claim she suffered from memory loss, and convicted her of the murders. She became the fourth woman to receive a life sentence since the fall of communism in the country. But the woman collapsed during the reading of the verdict and the court will now decide whether the defendant will be brought to court again.
The terrible incident that shocked the country took place last September in the community of Široký Důl, in eastern Bohemia, some 130 kilometres east of Prague. On Friday, September 2, the woman’s partner called paramedics to their house where they discovered the bodies of the victims – two boys, aged two and eight, and two girls, aged five years and two months. Three of them were stabbed to death, one was strangled.
The woman attempted suicide, and was taken to hospital in critical condition. The couple had only moved into the village a week before the tragedy; three of the four victims were from different fathers. The police questioned the women the next day, and two days after the tragedy charged her with murder on the basis of evidence from the crime scene and medical analysis.
The woman claimed that she suffered from a severe memory loss and that she could not recall any details from her life. But earlier this year, she was declared sane and able to stand trial which began in April. The prosecution demanded the life sentence while the woman’s attorney suggested that all charges be dropped due to lack of evidence.
The court heard testimonies of a psychologist and a psychiatrist who examined the woman and told the court they found no signs that she was suffering from a mental disorder. Psychiatrist Petr Stožický said her motivation was not to hurt the children but to escape her problems, as she manifested in the past when she frequently changed partners, moved from one place to another and sometimes stopped communicating with her friends and relatives. The experts said the woman was only feigning a loss of memory, and described the murders as “extended suicide”.
In her testimony in the court, the 37-year-old defendant repeated her claims and said she had no memory of the children or her partner, and that she could not imagine hurting her children. But on Friday, Judge Miroslav Mjartan said there was clear evidence she committed the murders although she might be trying to suppress her memories of it. Taking into account the brutality of the crime and the fact that the woman abused the trust her children had in her, the court sentenced her to life in prison. Judge Mjartan argued the court had no other option but to hand her life sentence as the case was absolutely extraordinary, adding he hoped something like that won’t happen again.
The woman collapsed during the reading of the verdict, and was taken to hospital. The judge therefore suspended the session, and will determine whether all parties will be summoned to the court again to be able to appeal the verdict, or whether the verdict will be delivered to them in writing. The woman’s attorney later told reporters he was planning to file an appeal.