A German nurse, who is already serving a life sentence for killing four people, has now been charged with having killed another 97 patients over the course of several years. Prosecutors said the alleged murders took place at two hospitals in northwestern Germany.
Niels Hoegel, the German nurse, worked at a hospital in Oldenburg for three years, from 1999 to 2002, and in another clinic in nearby Delmenhorst from 2003 to 2005. The new indictment against him was expected after officials said in November that he may have killed more than 100 patients in total from these hospitals.
Hoegel was convicted of the manslaughter of two patients as well as two attempted murders in Delmenhorst in 2015. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In the course of his trial, Niels Hoegel admitted to the fact that he intentionally brought about cardiac crises in about 90 patients in Delmenhorst because he allegedly enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them. Later, he confessed to having killed patients doing the same in Oldenburg. He said he did it because he was bored.
Hoegel's confessions prompted investigators to carry out tests on dozens of other patients from those hospitals who had died while the nurse had been working at them. This led to new charges for Hoegel.
It is still not clear when a new trial at the state court in Oldenburg might start. Additional convictions could also affect Hoegel’s possibility of a parole, but there are no consecutive sentences in Germany.
In general, people in Germany who are serving life sentences are considered for parole after 15 years.
Of all the new cases, 62 are for patients who died in Delmenhorst and 35 for patients who died in Oldenburg. Prosecutor Martin Koziolek said that in the three other cases the investigators viewed as suspicious, tests didn’t produce enough evidence to add them to Hoegel’s charge sheet.
Hoegel used a variety of drugs in his attempts to stop patients' hearts, according to Koziolek. None of the drugs he allegedly used had been prescribed to the patients by their doctors. He further added that prosecutors believe that Hoegel, “in all cases at least accepted the death of the patients as a result of the effects of the drugs.”
As a part of a wider investigation that involved both the Delmenhorst and Oldenburg hospitals, the police and the prosecutors reviewed more than 500 patient files and hundreds more hospital records.
The police and prosecutors also exhumed 134 bodies from more than 67 cemeteries and questioned Niels Hoegel six times about the alleged murders. Many of the nurse's former patients had been cremated after their deaths, so testing could not be carried out.
The police have also said that if the local health officials had not hesitated in alerting the authorities, Hoegel could have been stopped from doing so much earlier, and several lives would have been saved.
The authorities are already pursuing criminal cases against the former staff at both the Delmenhorst and Oldenburg medical facilities.