Warning: Distressing content
A German mother has appeared in court charged with the murder of five of her six children.
Christiane K, 28, is accused of murdering her children, aged between 1 and 8, after drugging their breakfast before drowning or smothering them.
It is alleged that she committed the monstrous crime after a heated exchange of messages with her then-husband, from who she was separated, in which she threatened he wouldn't see his children again.
His decision to start a new relationship was reportedly the source of her rage.
Christiane K., whose full surname wasn't released for privacy reasons, appeared Monday before a regional court in the western city of Wuppertal, declining to answer any of the judges' questions.
Prosecutors allege that the 28-year-old gave her young children large doses of various medications to put them into a stupor, before taking them into the bathroom one by one and drowning, strangling or suffocating them.
Faced with a life sentence, she denies killing her children in early September 2020.
Instead, she claims that a masked intruder entered her home, tied and gagged her, and then killed the children, a version of events for which investigators say there is no supporting evidence.
Broadcaster RTL reported that her eldest son watched his mother commit the murders before the pair fled the town by train.
The mother later attempted suicide but was rescued.
The eldest child then made his way to his grandmother, who called the police.
Officers who arrived at the family's home in the town of Solingen found three girls, aged 1, 2 and 3, and two boys, 6 and 8, dead in their beds.
In horrifying scenes, the children were found lying in their beds, each wrapped in a towel.
German prosecutors have charged Christiane with "malicious murder," insisting she took advantage of her children's defencelessness to kill them.
Those first on the scene reportedly tried in vain to resuscitate the children and were said to be traumatised by their experience.
"The family tragedy in Solingen fills me with great sadness and at the moment my thoughts and prayers are with the five small children whose lives were snatched from them so terribly early," said Herbert Reul, interior minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
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- Additional reporting, Associated Press