Former German nurse admits to murdering 100 patients in Germany

Author: Ciara Hanratty and Hannah Unger

November 22, 2018

A former nurse, Mr Niels Högel, has admitted to killing 100 patients in his care, on the first day of his trial in the biggest serial killing case in Germany’s post-war history.

Mr Högel is already serving a life sentence for convictions, including murder and attempted murder.

 

Chronology 

In 2006, Mr Högel was first convicted of attempted murder after he was found by hospital authorities injecting a patient with unprescribed medication. Mr Högel was sentenced in 2008 to seven years in prison for attempted murder.

During his incarceration for the first conviction, Mr Högel allegedly boasted to fellow prison inmates that he had killed more than 50 patients. At a second trial in 2015, Mr Högel was convicted of murdering two patients and endangering the lives of three others. Mr Högel was given the maximum sentence of 15 years.

During that course of investigations, Mr Högel admitted to a psychiatrist that he had administered potentially lethal doses to around 90 patients and claimed around 30 had died.

Investigators believe the final toll could be more than 200 but fear they might never know for sure because the bodies of many potential victims were cremated.

 

Current Trial

At Mr Högel’s third trial, which commenced on 31 October 2018, he is accused of deliberately administering 100 patients in his care with lethal doses of medication between 2000 and 2005. The killings took place at two hospitals in Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, both in north-western Germany. All of his victims were in intensive care at the time.

It is alleged that Mr Högel deliberately put the patients in life-threatening situations so that he could show off his resuscitation skills.

Asked by the Judge Sebastian Buehrmann whether the charges against him were true, he answered: “All that I have admitted to is true.”

In the run-up to the new trial, relatives agreed for the bodies of 130 of Mr Högel’s former patients to be exhumed and tested. More than 120 relatives of former patients are taking part in the trial as co-plaintiffs.

 

System Failures 

It has emerged that the hospital in Oldenburg dismissed Mr Hoegel in late 2002 due to mounting suspicions of patients dying on his watch. Despite the dismissal, it appears that the hospital failed to open an investigation into these deaths and Mr Högel was free to move to another post in Delmenhorst.

Further failings have also been identified by the authorities during the course of their investigation:

  • Four former colleagues of Mr Högel are facing charges of failing to report evidence that could have prevented the killings.
  • A former heart surgeon at Oldenburg is alleged to have arranged for Mr Högel to be transferred rather than report his concerns.
  • A former chief nurse is accused of giving Mr Högel a glowing reference despite later testifying that she knew doctors were concerned he was involved in too many resuscitations.
  • Two senior surgeons are accused of covering up an incident in which Mr Högel was caught administering a potentially lethal overdose to a patient rather than reporting it to police.

Mr Högel faces possible further life sentences if convicted.  There are no consecutive sentences in Germany, however an additional conviction could affect Mr Högel’s possibility of parole. In general, people serving life sentences are considered for parole after 15 years.

The trial continues and is expected to run until May 2019. ​

 

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