'Power drunk' German serial killer sentenced to life

Former nurse Niels Hoegel, accused of killing more than 100 patients in his care, waits at court for the continuation of his trial in Oldenburg, northern Germany, on June 5, 2019.

Former nurse Niels Hoegel, accused of killing more than 100 patients in his care, waits at court for the continuation of his trial in Oldenburg, northern Germany, on June 5, 2019. 

AFP

BERLIN - The man believed to be post-war Germany's worst serial killer was known to colleagues as a "nice guy" who did little to arouse suspicion until well into his murder spree.

A court in the northern city of Oldenburg sentenced Niels Hoegel, 42, a heavy-set, second-generation caregiver, to life for murdering 85 patients.

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Prosecutors said he was drunk on power over his ailing patients, whom he picked off at random out of "boredom".

Hoegel has admitted to injecting patients with drugs that cause heart failure or circulatory collapse so he could then try to revive them and, when successful, shine as a saviour before his medical peers and superiors.

The dangerous game left at least 85 people dead, the court found. However, police say the actual number could be more than 200.

The current trial was Hoegel's third since 2008 related to the deaths at clinics where he worked.

He was found guilty in the two earlier trials and sentenced to life in prison, but investigators pressed on with toxicology tests on dozens more exhumed bodies.

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Hoegel has admitted to committing 43 murders but said he had serious memory gaps in dozens of other instances. 

He offered his victims' families an apology during extensive testimony. 

"If I knew a way that would help you, then I would take it, believe me," Hoegel said as his trial got underway in October.

"I am fully convinced now that I owe every relative an explanation. I am honestly sorry." 

'Resuscitation Rambo'

Hoegel "acted out of pride", the presiding judge who convicted him in 2015 said, adding that he "used people as pawns".

"A sad guy who gave himself God's powers," said Christian Marbach, whose grandfather was killed by Hoegel. 

In a 200-page personality assessment, psychiatrist Konstantin Karyofilis said that Hoegel failed to see his patients as "individuals". Another report identified a "severe narcissistic disorder".  

The "nice guy" facade shattered at a hospital in the northern city of Oldenburg, where he started working in 1999.

The clinic had a good reputation, but Hoegel felt overwhelmed by the job and started drinking heavily as he sank deeper into a depression spiked with a panicky fear of his own death.

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The emergency resuscitations and the deaths began to soar on his watch at the hospital.

Hoegel gained a reputation as something of a jinx and colleagues sought to avoid working with him.

He was encouraged to move on in 2002, with a positive recommendation from management to ensure his quick departure.

Despite the curious number of patient deaths under his care, no internal investigation was ever opened against him.  

Hoegel, who eventually married and had a daughter, was allowed to continue the carnage in the neighbouring town of Delmenhorst, where colleagues nicknamed him "Resuscitation Rambo".

That is until he was caught in the act in June 2005.

When he managed to revive a patient, he was sated but only for a few days, Karyofilis said: "For him, it was like a drug."

Source
AFP