German nurse killed patients: 5 cases where nurses became angels of death

From Charles Cullen who thought he was helping his patients to Daniela Poggliali who took pictures next to dead bodies, a look at nurses who were serial killers.

world Updated: Nov 11, 2017 08:46 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nurse,Serial killer,Angels of death
Niels Hoegel, a German nurse, killed at least 106 patients with lethal dosage of drugs. (Shutterstock/Representative image)

A German nurse has been convicted for killing at least 106 patients out of “boredom”.

On Thursday, investigators said Niels Hoegel (41), injected patients with lethal drugs and felt “euphoric” when he revived them. He claimed to be devastated when he failed.

Hoegel admitted to giving patients drugs that can cause heart failure or circulatory collapse, so he could then try to revive them and be hailed as a saviour. He was convicted in 2015 for murdering two intensive-care patients at Delmenhorst hospital near Bremen, but on Thursday, the on-going investigation revealed more details.

Hoegel isn’t the first medical practitioner to become a killer. Here’s a look at the shocking cases where medical practitioners turned into “angels of death”: 

Charles Cullen

The American nurse was given six life sentences in 2006 after he admitted to killing at least 40 patients with fatal doses of drugs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania during his 16-year career.

Cullen, however, said his actions were mercy killing and he got no satisfaction from killing people. In an interview with CBC, he said he thought “people weren’t suffering anymore. So, in a sense, I thought I was helping”. Not all of his victims, however, were old or very sick.

The nurse was working at the Somerset Medical Centre in New Jersey when a priest, Florian Gall, died unexpectedly while recovering from pneumonia. The hospital discovered high levels of ‘digoxin’, a drug used to regulate heart rhythms, in his blood. Another suspicious overdose in two weeks led to Cullen’s eventual arrest in 2003.

Cullen’s experience as a former Navy electronics technician helped him exploit hospital systems that regulated medicines, so he avoided detection at the nine hospitals he worked at. Cullen escaped the death penalty after agreeing to help prosecutors identify his victims, according to The Wired.

A book ‘The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder’ by Charles Graeber is based on Cullen’s story.

Donald Harvey

The former nurse, also dubbed the ‘angel of death’ pleaded guilty in 1987 to killing 37 people, mostly while he worked as a nurse’s aide at hospitals in Cincinnati and Kentucky. He later claimed he was responsible for killing 18 others while working at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Cincinnati.

Many of his victims were chronically ill patients and he claimed he was trying to end their suffering.

Harvey used arsenic and cyanide to poison most of his victims, often putting it in the hospital food he served them, prosecutors said. Some of the patients were suffocated when he let their oxygen tanks run out. He was caught after a medical examiner smelled cyanide while performing an autopsy on a victim.

Harvey, 64, died earlier this year after being attacked and beaten up in his prison cell.

Daniela Poggliali

The Italian nurse, 44, was good at her job but she was also a ‘compulsive thief’ with a penchant for dark humour. In 2014, she was accused of murdering an elderly woman in Umberto I Hospital of Lugo, Italy, by giving a dosage of potassium that can be fatal in excess, according to an article in The Daily Mail. Prosecutors had alleged there was an unusual spike in the number of deaths during Poggliali’s working hours. But investigators were shocked when they found two images on her phone -- one showed her grinning and giving a thumbs up sign next to the body of a woman, and in the other, she is leaning over a body with her finger pointed like a gun.

However, Poggliali denied killing any patient and was acquitted in one case by a Bologna appeals court in June, local media reports said.

Ben Geen

Ben Geen, a former lieutenant in the Territorial Army, was convicted in 2006 of killing two patients and poisoning 15 others. He injected patients at Horton General hospital in Oxfordshire, Britain, with muscle relaxants, insulin and other drugs to “satisfy his lust for excitement” when reviving them, reported The Guardian.

The Oxford Crown Court was told during trial that Geen look “elated” as his patients went into respiratory arrest and boasted to a doctor: “There is always a resuscitation when I’m on duty,” according to an article by BBC. Police also found a muscle relaxant in his pocket when Geen, now 36, was arrested in 2004.

Andy Taylor, the detective who was probing the case, said about Geen, “It is clear that he wanted to be the centre of attention and in order to fuel this desire brought some of the patients to the brink of death and coldly murdered two of them.”

Beverly Allitt

Another English nurse Beverly Allitt was sentenced in 2007 for murdering four toddlers and attempting to kill three others at the Grantham and Kesteven hospital in Lincolnshire, The Guardian said in a report. Allitt’s youngest victim was a seven-week-old baby Liam Taylor.

She was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment after it was found that Allitt was suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP) when the children were harmed in early 1990s.

MSbP is a form of child abuse in which caregivers induce illnesses in the recipients to attract attention or sympathy.

(WIth AP inputs)

First Published: Nov 10, 2017 17:20 IST