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German nurse convicted of killing 87 patients; liked putting them into cardiac arrest

German nurse Niels Hoegel liked to inject his patients with overdoses of heart medication and other drugs to put them in cardiac arrest because he liked how it felt to resuscitate them. Sometimes he was able to bring them back, but in at least 87 cases they died. He is believed to be modern Germany’s most prolific serial killer.

A court in the city of Oldenburg recently found Hoegel, 42, guilty of murdering 85 patients, aged 34 to 96. He was sentenced to life in prison. He had previously been convicted of two other murders.

The presiding judge, Sebastian Buerhmann, described Hoegel’s guilt as incomprehensible as he handed down the verdict. The killings occurred between 2000 and 2005, according to the DPA news agency. In 2015 Hoegel was convicted of two murders and two attempted murders in another hospital, and is already serving a life sentence. In the German court system, there are no consecutive sentences, but the judge noted in his verdict the “particular seriousness” of Hoegel’s crimes. This should all but guarantee he will remain behind bars after the common 15-year term is served.

During his first trial, Hoegel stated that he deliberately brought about cardiac arrest in around 90 patients because he took pleasure in being able to resuscitate them. He later admitted that he also killed patients in Oldenburg.

Hoegel’s admission instigated a more thorough investigation involving both hospitals. Police and prosecutors examined more than 500 patient files and hundreds more hospital records. One-hundred-thirty-four bodies were exhumed from 67 cemeteries, and Hoegel was questioned numerous times. He told investigators that he used many different drugs to attempt to revive his patients, and he fully knew they could die. Many of Hoegel’s victims were on the road to recovery when he stepped in to harm them. In total, Hoegel was on trial in Oldenburg on 100 counts of murder. The court found him not guilty for lack of evidence in 15 of the murders. Buerhmann noted with grief to the family members present:

“The fact is sometimes the worst fantasy is not enough to describe the truth. We were not able to shine light through part of the fog that lay over this trial. That also fills us with a certain sadness.”1

The German court system does not enter pleas, but during the seven-month trial, Hoegel confessed to 43 of the murders, denied five and said he had no recollection of the other 52. He testified that he had a shielded childhood with no violence. Both his father and his grandmother were nurses and were his role models for becoming a nurse. In his closing statement to the court, Hoegel expressed shame and remorse, and said he realized the pain and suffering his “terrible deeds” had caused, adding:

“Now I sit here fully convinced that I want to give every relative an answer. I am really sorry. To each and every one of you I sincerely apologize for all that I have done.”1

An expert testified during the trial that although Hoegel suffered from multiple personality disorders, he was mentally competent to stand trial and serve out his sentence. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars.