German murder trial against nurse begins

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Tue 30th Oct, 2018

It is the biggest murder trial in German post-war history; the former nurse Niels Högel is said to have killed at least 106 people between 2000 and 2005 in the German towns of Delmenhorst and Oldenburg. According to the prosecution, he injected patients with an overdose of medication such as gilurytmal, potassium, xylocaine, or solatex in order to induce acute heart problems and trigger cardiac arrests. He then tried to reanimate his victims in order to be celebrated as a hero when succeeding to do so. Although colleagues were suspicious at an early stage, most of them remained silent. Högel was stopped only after being caught red-handed in 2005.

As early as August 2001, the clinic in Oldenburg, where Högel was working at the time, had a meeting with doctors and nurses about the conspicuous accumulation of resuscitation and deaths. Högel apparently assumes he had been caught and immediately called in sick, but nothing further happens. however the suspicions increased over the following year and Högel was suspended from work under full pay. Despite this, he gets a very good testimonial and applies for a new job at a clinic in Delmenhorst. As soon as Högel is employed there, the death rate in the intensive care unit rises dramatically. Instead of the statistically expected 200 patients, more than twice as many people died between 2003 and 2005. In addition, the consumption of the rarely used heart remedy Gilurytmal is seven times as high as usual. But nobody seemed to notice - until May 2005.

Only over the course of the years, did the investigators discover the extent of Högel's acts. More than 130 bodies were exhumed and examined for drug residues. For six of his acts he was already tried in 2015 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He also has largely confessed to all the others - as far as he could remember. Since defendants in Germany can only be sentenced to life imprisonment once, the presiding judge Sebastian Bührmann particularly wants to provide the relatives of the victims with clarity about their fate. However, the lawyer also emphasizes that Högel must be considered innocent until sentenced.

The trial of Högel will be an immense challenge, even for an experienced lawyer. It is the biggest murder trial in Germany since the end of the war. There are 120 co-plaintiffs and the public interest is immense. Therefore, the trial was moved from the courthouse to the Weser-Ems-Halle. So far, 24 trial dates have been scheduled.

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