German authorities are trying to bring one of the 21st century’s most notorious criminals to justice. Niels Hoegel, a former nurse in Germany, has been accused of killing as many as 100 former patients, sparking outrage and disgust across Europe and the globe. In addition to bringing Hoegel to justice, authorities are trying to figure out exactly how many lives he managed to take during his time as a nurse.
Hoegel is now considered the country’s deadliest postwar serial killer. Learn more about this gruesome case and how Hoegel managed to kill his patients in plain sight.
The Crimes of Niels Hoegel
42-year old Niels Hoegel was charged last year with killing 97 people during his career as a nurse. According to prosecutors, there is evidence to suggest that Hoegel committed 97 of the suspected 100 murders. In three cases, prosecutors suspect he may have manipulated the health of his patients but was not directly responsible for their deaths.
On his first day in court in October of 2018, Hoegel confessed to killing his patients at two hospitals in Northern Germany between 2000 and 2005. During his court appearance, he confirmed the ages of his victims ranged from 34 to 96.
As a nurse, Hoegel is accused of intentionally giving his victims drugs they weren’t prescribed. This gave him a chance to show off his resuscitation skills to his colleagues. Giving patients the wrong pills was also a way for Hoegel to fight off boredom on the job.
During past court hearings, Hoegel admitted to feeling a sense of euphoria when he successfully brought patients back to life after giving them non-prescribed medications. But he said he felt devastated when he failed to resuscitate them, knowing he was to blame for their deaths.
As part of their case, prosecutors are arguing that Hoegel should have known that the drugs he was giving his patients could cause life-threatening cardiac problems, implying the murders were premeditated and Hoegel should be sentenced accordingly.
As the details of his crimes come to light, it appears Hoegel used a similar pattern when inflicting harm on his patients. He would first inject his victims with a medication that would trigger cardiac arrest and then attempt to resuscitate them.
How Prosecutors Became Aware of the Case
Having curently been in prison for nearly a decade, Hoegel is already serving a life sentence for six previous convictions, including homicide and attempted homicide in 2008 and 2015. During the first investigation, prosecutors started to suspect that he may have been responsible for additional murders when he worked at hospitals in Delmenhorst and Oldenburg, Germany. Authorities started investigating hundreds of patient deaths at these two facilities, exhuming 130 bodies in the process.
While prosecutors are focusing on 97 of Hoegel’s alleged victims, he could be responsible for as many as 200 murders. The final count may be off due to the fact that many possible victims were cremated after their deaths, leaving many to wonder just how many lives Hoegel managed to take.
The Future of the Case Against Hoegel
Hoegel is expected to remain behind bars for the rest of his life even as prosecutors argue for an additional sentence in court. The trial is expected to run until June of this year. Since these new charges were announced, around 126 relatives of Hoegel’s alleged victims have joined the lawsuit as co-plaintiffs.
Some of the victims’ family members remain outraged that he was able to commit so many murders for so long without law enforcement and hospital authorities intervening. Christian Marbach, a grandson of one of the victims, commented, “They had everything they needed [to stop him] – you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes.”
Germany has one of the safest healthcare systems in the world, but clearly, some mistakes, whether intentional or not, can still happen. All nurses should be made to pass a background check before being hired at a medical facility. Nurses and other care providers should also be on the lookout for irresponsible behavior in the workplace.