The already prolific German serial killer nurse was charged on Monday with 97 more murders, making Niels Hoegel, 41, the deadliest serial killer ever in post-war Germany.
Hoegel is currently serving a life sentence for murdering two patients and attempting to murder two others, but after confessing to his psychologist during trial that he committed 30 additional murders, authorities decided to exhume the bodies of other patients who had died under his care, leading to the new charges.
Hoegel was actively killing patients in the two German cities of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst.
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How Did He Do It? And Other Questions
Hoegel had been injecting his patients with a deadly mix of chemicals meant to cause heart failure or circulatory collapse. The German serial killer nurse admits that he was acting “out of boredom” and wanted the glory of being able to resuscitate the dying patients. In most cases, he was unable to do so, although he admits to feeling euphoria when he succeeded and devastation when he did not.
Although Hoegel acted alone, the deaths have raised questions about the hospitals where he worked. How could so many deaths go undetected? The police believe that the answer is simply negligence.
While Hoegel was working in the northern city of Delmenhorst, hospital staff saw deaths in the intensive care unit double after Hoegel was hired, but no investigation was carried out. In 2005, Hoegel was seen by a fellow hospital nurse injecting a patient. Hospital staff failed to do anything for two days, a window in which another murder was carried out.
Chief of Police Johan Kuhme told the Guardian he believes people in the hospitals were aware, “People at the clinic in Oldenburg knew of the abnormalities.” Kuhme also questions how the German serial killer nurse was able to obtain a clean reference from the clinic in Oldenburg when he began work in Delmenhorst.
In Delmenhorst, six employees, including 2 senior doctors, have been charged with negligent manslaughter, while an investigation in Oldenburg is ongoing.
The trial of the German serial killer nurse, expected to start later this year will be his third trial, but will not change his sentence since consecutive life sentences are not permitted under German law.
How Was He Caught?
In 2005, a fellow nurse in Delmenhorst witnessed Hoegel injecting a patient with his signature chemical cocktail. Luckily, the female nurse spoke up and the patient survived, while the German serial killer nurse was eventually arrested.
He was charged in 2008 with attempted murder and ultimately sentenced to 7 and a half years in prison. Thankfully, this wasn’t the end of the story for Germany’s most prolific independently acting serial killer.
The trial was highly publicized, drawing the attention of the family members of Hoegel’s former patients. A woman contacted police to inform them that she believed her deceased mother may have been the victim of the German serial killer nurse. Hoegel had already admitted in court to injecting some 90 patients with a drug cocktail, claiming that only 30 died. He then went on to brag to fellow inmates that he had killed many more. He also shared this information with a psychiatrist, providing the police with enough evidence to reopen the case.
In 2015, the German serial killer nurse faced another trial. Although he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, the police were not satisfied, sure that Hoegel had committed more murders, leading them to exhume scores of bodies of Hoegel’s former patients.
The German serial killer nurse is already serving a life sentence, so the new trial will not change much; capital punishment is forbidden under German law.
The New Charges
Authorities found 97 bodies with traces of Hoegel’s drug cocktail in their systems. This has led police to believe that the German serial killer nurse is responsible for the death of at least 97 other patients while working in the German towns of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst. Tests of 3 more bodies, out of the 134 bodies exhumed, were inconclusive.
Experts believe the German serial killer nurse killed many more than 99 people. The bodies of some of his former patients were sent to Turkey for burial, while many others were cremated, making it impossible to run toxicology tests. Officials in Turkey report that they are planning on exhuming the bodies of three former patients of Hoegel.
Although authorities believe the German serial killer nurse committed many more murders, they chose to keep the charges “low.” The prosecutors hope this will make their case easier to win. Police Chief Kuhme reports that the magnitude of the murders has left police “speechless.” He has also underscored the point that the German serial killer nurse likely killed many more, “We must realize that the real dimension of the killings by Högel is likely many times worse.”
Of the 97 new murder charges, 62 of the patients died in Delmenhorst, while the other 35 passed away in the Oldenburg clinic.
A Unique Serial Killer?
Although police investigator Arne Schmidt believes the murders are “unique in the history of the German republic,” a decade ago, a German nurse was found guilty of the murder of 28 elderly patients by lethal injection. The nurse reported that he murdered the elderly out of pity for their condition.
These murders haunt the German population, in part, because they bear unsettling similarity to the Nazi euthanasia programs. Through Hitler’s various euthanasia programs those considered “unworthy of life” mostly the handicapped, mentally ill, and those considered “criminally insane” were killed by lethal injection, starvation, or poisonous gas. 200,000 individuals are thought to have been killed in the euthanasia programs, including 5,000 children.
Something that may make Hoegel disturbingly unique is his motive. Hoegel has claimed that he committed the murders to fend off boredom, something few hospital nurses would report suffering from, leading to many more questions about the German serial killer nurse.