Greek mother accused of killing daughters goes on trial

A 34-year-old mother accused of killing her three daughters over three years went on trial on Monday in Athens, in a case that has sparked outrage in Greece.

Roula Pispirigou, who is being held in a high-security prison, is being tried for the "attempted premeditated homicide" and "premeditated homicide" of her eldest daughter.

She has denied all charges.

She stands accused of poisoning nine-year-old Georgina in January 2022 by administering ketamine, an anaesthetic.

At the time of her death, Georgina was in hospital where she had been for several stays since first suffering convulsions in April 2021 which left her a quadriplegic.

Pispirigou was arrested in March 2022 and has maintained her innocence since.

Following her arrest, authorities began investigating the deaths of her two other daughters -- Malena, aged three when she died in 2019, and Iris, six months old when she died in 2021.

Forensic examinations revealed that both girls died of asphyxiation and although that investigation is ongoing, in August Pispirigou was charged with those deaths as well.

Pispirigou arrived in court on Monday handcuffed, surrounded by police in balaclavas, dressed in black and looking haggard.

The judge rejected the request by her lawyer for all three cases to be merged, but agreed to adjourn the trial until Wednesday, after Pispirigou appears before a judge investigating the cases of the two younger girls.

- 'Modern-day Medea' -

Greek media have nicknamed Pispirigou, a nurse by training, as a "modern-day Medea", a figure in Greek mythology who murders her sons after their father leaves her for another woman.

The alleged triple infanticide has received widespread media attention in Greece, where such crimes are relatively rare.

In April 2022, the government urged calm in the face of calls for Pispirigou to be killed.

When she appeared in court shortly after her arrest, she wore a bullet-proof vest and riot police were deployed to control a crowd shouting: "Murderess, confess your crime."

One person told Greek television she thought Pispirigou should be hanged, and the front of her house in Patras was daubed with the words "Death to child killers".

"People can't forgive the fact that she allegedly killed not one but three children and at different times," said Effi Lambropoulou, lecturer in criminology at the Athens Panteion University.

Media "focus above all on the emotions of viewers", Lambropoulou said.

"This information is then exaggerated on social networks, where there is no control whatsoever."

yap/gil/yad/