A German Nurse, Niels Hoegel, has admitted to killing 100 patients in his care. He made the confession during the first day of his trial on Tuesday in the biggest serial killing case in Germany’s post-war history.
41-year old Hoegel has already spent nearly a decade in prison on a life term for other patient deaths, and is accused of intentionally administering medical overdoses to victims so he could bring them back to life at the last moment.
As the proceedings opened in the northern city of Oldenburg, presiding judge Sebastian Buehrmann asked whether the charges against him were accurate.
Hoegel replied quietly “Yes. What I have admitted took place,” he told the courtroom crowded with dozens of grieving relatives.
Presiding judge, Buehrmann said the main aim of the trial was to establish the full scope of the murder spree that was allowed to go unchecked for years at two German hospitals.
“It is like a house with dark rooms we want to bring light into the darkness,” he said.
After a minute of silence in the courtroom for the victims, Hoegel listened impassively, his head lowered, as public prosecutor Daniela Schiereck-Bohlmann read out the name of each dead patient and the charges against the defendant.
Prosecutors say at least 36 patients were killed at a hospital in Oldenburg where he worked, and about 64 more at a clinic in nearby Delmenhorst, between 2000 and 2005. More than 130 bodies of patients who died on Hoegel’s watch have been exhumed, in a case investigators have called “unprecedented in Germany to our knowledge”.
One of the more than 100 co-plaintiffs in the trial, Christian Marbach, said it was a scandal that Hoegel had been allowed to kill with impunity for such an extended period of time without hospital authorities or law enforcement intervening.
“They had everything they needed (to stop him) — you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes,” Marbach, the grandson of one of the patients, told AFP.
Hoegel told the court he was “surprised” when a superior at the Oldenburg hospital asked him to resign in late 2002, saying he would get a positive recommendation and holiday pay if he left voluntarily.
“I felt bad, like I had been caught,” Hoegel said, adding however that he was never explicitly told why they wanted him gone.
Marbach said the defendant seemed remarkably composed as he admitted to the extraordinary list of killings.
“He looks like a little, vulnerable mass murderer.”
Caught in 2005 while injecting an unprescribed medication into a patient in Delmenhorst, Hoegel was sentenced in 2008 to seven years in prison for attempted murder.
A second trial followed in 2014-15 under pressure from alleged victims’ families.