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This article was published 22/10/2014 (916 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It could take months for police to unravel the disturbing mystery of six dead babies hidden inside a Winnipeg storage locker.
Police said Wednesday much remains unknown, including the gender and identifies of the infants and when and how they died. Their remains were found Monday. Investigators originally thought they were dealing with three or four corpses, but forensic examination revealed there were six infants.
"So many of the questions that I expect you have will be answered forensically. But at this time, no, we don’t have any information regarding (how they died). Our belief is that the infants were all newborns, but whether that bears out by forensic examination (remains to be seen)," said Const. Eric Hofley.
Police have charged Andrea Giesbrecht, 40, with six counts of concealing the body of a child, a rarely used offence in the Criminal Code. Those charges could be upgraded to more serious offences at a later date.
"Right now, we don’t have any information regarding a homicide," said Hofley.
Giesbrecht was arrested at her residence in the Maples and was in custody Wednesday. She has retained prominent lawyer Greg Brodsky to defend her. She is expected to appear in court today, with a date to be set for a bail hearing. None of the allegations has been proven and she is presumed innocent.
"It’s a perplexing case. It requires a lot more investigation by the authorities and a vigorous defence," Brodsky told the Free Press. He said police initially cautioned Giesbrecht she may be charged with murder, but only proceeded on the concealment charges for now.
Brodsky wouldn’t say whether the infants were born to his client or someone else, and wouldn’t provide further details about the allegations.
Court records show the dead babies were hidden in a locker at the U-Haul building at the corner of McPhillips Street and Elgin Avenue between March 7 and Oct. 20. They state Giesbrecht allegedly "disposed of a dead body of a child with the intent to conceal that an unknown person had been delivered of it by unknown means."
Giesbrecht is also accused of breaching a probation order that took effect Sept. 30 by "failing to keep the peace and be of good behaviour."
Neighbours in the Maples were stunned by the allegations. One person described Giesbrecht, her husband and their two sons as "just another normal family" and said there was nothing suspicious or out of the ordinary about the couple. Those approached Wednesday found it difficult to believe the woman could be the focal point of the investigation.
"I feel for her family. They are likely all innocent in this," said a man, who knows the Giesbrecht family through recreational activities in the Maples.
"Completely shocked," said a woman, who lives across from the Giesbrechts on the quiet street and wished to remain anonymous. "I heard about the terrible story (Tuesday) and it just made me sick, and I just found out about (who was arrested) on Facebook.
"I can’t believe it. I’ve been here for 17 years and (have) known them for most of that time. I never would have guessed something like this was possible," she said.
Further up the street, another woman was a lot more upset.
"It’s a terrible, horrible thing. That’s all I can say."
Hofley said it could be months of forensic work before investigators have answers about how the infants died.
He was asked by a reporter whether the accused is the mother of the infants.
"That will come through forensic examination. DNA analysis will take place. It’s my understanding that it is a lengthy investigation," Hofley said. "How and at what time they were placed in that locker is all part of the investigation."
Hofley admitted some questions may never be answered.
He said currently no other suspects are being considered, but that may change as the investigation continues.
Hofley said Giesbrecht was quickly identified by police because she was the person who rented the storage facility. On Monday, employees at the company called police after going to check on a "delinquent locker" and finding a horrific scene.
Officers arrived and found what appeared to be the remains of the babies. On Tuesday, an official with U-Haul said the company is co-operating with police.
"U-Haul is deeply shocked and saddened by this discovery," said Razmin Mansoub, marketing company president for U-Haul Company of Central Canada.
A candlelight vigil for the deceased babies was held Wednesday evening outside the U-Haul compound. The organizers, members of an indigenous online social network, sent out a news release calling on all faith groups and those with no religious affiliation to take candles to the impromptu service.
"In candlelight we’ll join as one community for the lost souls taken from us all," the release said.