German nurse gets life sentence for killing 85 patients

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A German court yesterday handed a life sentence to a nurse believed to be the most prolific serial killer in the country’s post-war history, for the “unfathomable” crime of murdering 85 patients in his care.

Judge Sebastian Buehrmann called Niels Hoegel’s killing spree “incomprehensible” and acknowledged the trial left many families with painful unanswered questions.

The 42-year-old murdered patients selected at random with lethal injections between 2000 and 2005, when he was caught in the act.

The 85 victims Hoegel was convicted of murdering ranged in age from 34 to 96. He was acquitted on 15 counts for lack of evidence. Hoegel has already spent a decade in prison following a previous life sentence he received for six other murders.

The exhumation and autopsy of more than 130 bodies were necessary to build the case for the prosecution. Police suspect that Hoegel’s final death toll may be more than 200. But the court was unable to say for sure because of gaps in Hoegel’s memory and because many likely victims were cremated before autopsies could be performed.

Buehrmann of the regional court in the northern city of Oldenburg said the number of deaths at Hoegel’s hands “surpasses human imagination”.

“Your guilt is unfathomable,” he told the defendant. “Sometimes one’s worst nightmares fail to capture the truth.”

He expressed regret that the court had not been “fully able to lift the fog” for loved ones about other likely victims. On the final day of hearings on Wednesday, Hoegel asked his victims’ families for forgiveness for his “horrible acts”.

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