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CRIME

Prosecutors seek life in jail for German serial killer nurse

German prosecutors on Thursday demanded life in jail for a male nurse considered the country's worst peacetime serial killer for murdering around 100 hospital patients.

Prosecutors seek life in jail for German serial killer nurse
Niels Högel in court on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Niels Högel, 42, who is already behind bars for six killings, has confessed to giving scores of other intensive-care patients drug overdoses because he enjoyed the thrill of trying to reanimate them at the last moment.

SEE ALSO: German killer nurse tells families of over 100 victims 'sorry'

He was accused of a revised toll of 97 murders, said prosecutor Daniela Schiereck-Bohlmann, as three initial cases could not be proved.

Some investigators, however, believe Hogel may have killed hundreds more by injecting them with deadly drugs between 2000 and 2005 at clinics in the cities of Oldenburg and nearby Delmenhorst.

But because the deceased were buried or cremated long ago, autopsies have not been possible in all suspicious cases, and in some the post mortem examinations were inconclusive.

During his new trial since October, the heavy-set and bearded defendant has admitted to 43 killings, denied five and not ruled out 52 others, saying he could not remember.

SEE ALSO: German ex-nurse admits at trial to killing patients

Schiereck-Bohlmann said that clarity was needed on each death because “just calling him 'the worst serial killer in history' isn't enough to convict him”.

Prosecutors say Högel was motivated by vanity, the desire to show off his skills at saving human lives, and by simple boredom.

Some colleagues had reportedly nicknamed him “Resuscitation Rambo”.

Psychologists testifying in court said Högel suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder but could be considered fully culpable for his crimes.

At the start of his trial he apologized to the families of the victims who were aged between 34 and 96.

“If I knew a way that would help you, then I would take it, believe me,” he said. “I am honestly sorry.”

130 bodies exhumed 

Caught in 2005 while injecting an unprescribed medication into a patient in Delmenhorst, Hoegel was sentenced in 2008 to seven years in prison for attempted murder.

A second trial followed in 2014-15 under pressure from victims' families.

He was found guilty of multiple cases of murder and attempted murder and given the maximum sentence, life imprisonment.

It was then that Högel confessed to his psychiatrist to dozens more murders at Delmenhorst, which prompted a far wider probe.

More than 130 bodies of patients who died on Högel's watch were exhumed in Germany, Poland and Turkey in a case investigators called “unprecedented in Germany”.

Aside from the monstrosity of the killing spree, the Högel case has raised deeply troubling questions about how the hospital hierarchies failed to stop him for so long.

Statistics show that patient deaths, as well as the use of certain cardiac dugs, soared while Högel was on duty.

Several doctors and head nurses were later charged with manslaughter for failing to stop the killer nurse.

In the current trail, presiding judge Sebastian Buehrmann has ordered perjury investigations against some of Högel's former colleagues on suspicion they withheld evidence.

When the Oldenburg hospital encouraged Högel to resign in late 2002, it offered him a glowing letter of reference to ensure he left.

Högel later testified he was never explicitly told why the hospital wanted him gone but that the request made him feel as though he “had been caught”.

“Without the mistakes of some people in Oldenburg… this series of murders by Niels Högel could have been stopped,” Christian Marbach, whose grandfather was one of the victims in Delmenhorst, told AFP last year.

The verdict is scheduled for June 6th.

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CRIME

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.

By David COURBET

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