A German man accused of abandoning the three children of his girlfriend in a northern Italian pizzeria tried to hang himself in prison Saturday and was in critical condition, police and news reports said.

Sascha Schmidt, 24, was put in custody Thursday after he and girlfriend Ina Caterina Remhof, 26, were picked up by Italian police for allegedly abandoning the woman's children Sunday. The mother was freed.

Schmidt was imprisoned pending extradition to Germany, where prosecutors say he failed to return to prison April 2 after two days of leave. He is serving a sentence for predatory extortion due to last until 2011.

Aosta police official Fabbio Perrino told The Associated Press that Schmidt tried to hang himself with a belt in the Brissogne jail and was taken to the Aosta hospital for treatment. The ANSA and Apcom news agencies said he was in critical but stable condition.

The three children — a 6-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl and an 8-month-old boy — are now in the care of their maternal grandparents and German social services officials from their hometown of Olpe, who traveled to Italy to pick them up and bring them home.

Federico Fornoni, a court-appointed lawyer for the couple, said an extradition hearing for Schmidt had been scheduled for Saturday morning, but was canceled because of the suicide attempt. It wasn't clear when it could be rescheduled. Normally, it must be held within 48 hours of arrest, he said.

According to authorities, Remhof, Schmidt and the children had dinner at the pizzeria late Sunday. Remhof and Schmidt went outside to smoke and never came back, abandoning the three siblings at the restaurant. After being apprehended, they reportedly told officers they had run out of money.

The children were Remhof's from a previous relationship with a man jailed since 2007 for beating a fourth child he had with her so severely that it died.