Niels Hoegel, 40, was jailed in February 2015 for two murders and four counts of attempted murder or causing bodily harm on intensive care patients at the Delmenhorst hospital near the northern city of Bremen. With the recent revelation showing the murdered patients were at least 90 in total and possibly twice as many, police are referring to it as post-war Germany’s worst killing spree.
Police said forensics experts had since exhumed and analyzed more than 130 additional bodies and found evidence of a vastly higher death toll at two hospitals where Hoegel had worked between 1999 and 2005.
“The insights we were able to gain are terrifying, they surpass what we could have imagined,” said Johann Kuehme, police chief in the city of Oldenburg, where the other hospital is located.
The chief police investigator, Arne Schmidt, said that Högel killed randomly and preyed especially on those in critical condition. He told a press conference that he was speechless at the evidence found and stated that “the death toll is unique in the history of the German republic.”
Hoegel has admitted to injecting patients with drugs that can 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.
He said that at times he acted out of “boredom”, that he felt euphoric when he managed to bring a patient back to life, and devastated when he failed.
Högel was exposed in June 2005, when a female nurse witnessed him trying to inject a patient at the Delmenhorst hospital. The patient survived and Hoegel was arrested. In June 2008, he was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail for several cases of attempted murder.
Later, a woman contacted police, voicing suspicion that her deceased mother had been a victim of the killer nurse. The authorities exhumed several patients’ bodies and detected traces of the drug in five of them, declaring it either the definitive or possible contributing cause of death.
After the revelations, police and prosecutors launched a special forensic commission three years ago dubbed “Kardio” (Cardio) to look into other patient deaths. Presenting their findings, police said on Monday that 134 bodies had been exhumed and tested for traces of the deadly drugs, and that police also reviewed scores of medical records and questioned hundreds of witnesses.
Kuehme said the cause of death in many cases could not be determined because the bodily remains had been cremated.It is now clear he has murdered many more patients but investigators admit they may never know the true number.