Trial of German nursed accused of 100 deaths coming to close

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Former nurse Niels Hoegel, accused of multiple murder and attempted murder of patients, attends a session of the district court in Oldenburg, Germany, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa via AP, Pool)

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BERLIN (AP) — Defense attorneys for a former nurse on trial for killing 100 patients at two hospitals in northern Germany asked for leniency for their client Wednesday, saying in closing arguments that he had told the court openly about his crimes.

Attorney Ulrike Baumann argued that Niels Hoegel, 42, should be acquitted of 20 of the counts of murder he faces, suggesting there was a lack of evidence in those cases, the dpa news agency reported. In total, the deaths — which took place at a hospital in Oldenburg between 1999 and 2002 and another hospital in nearby Delmenhorst from 2003 to 2005 — are thought to be the largest string of serial killings in post-war Germany.

“Neither we nor Mr. Hoegel deny that he is the perpetrator in many cases,” Baumann told the Oldenburg regional court. “But he can only be convicted for crimes he committed and not for crimes he could have committed.”

Hoegel was convicted in 2015 of two murders and two attempted murders. He said at his first trial that he intentionally brought about cardiac crises in some 90 patients in Delmenhorst because he enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them. He later told investigators that he also killed patients in Oldenburg.

Authorities subsequently investigated hundreds of deaths, exhuming bodies of former patients.

Pleas are not entered in the German legal system but during the seven-month trial, Hoegel admitted to 43 of the killings, disputed five and said he couldn’t remember the other 52. Hoegel’s alleged victims ranged in age between 34 and 96.

Prosecutors have asked for the maximum — life in prison — for the killings.

They are asking for a conviction on 97 counts of murder, saying that in three cases insufficient evidence was presented.

Hoegel, who is entitled to make a final statement after closing arguments, already testified in court that he was sorry for the killings, telling the families of the victims “if there was a way to help you, I would do it, believe me.”

Hoegel has testified that he had a “protected” childhood, free of violence. He said his grandmother and his father, who were both nurses, had been his role models for going into the profession.

“Now I sit here fully convinced that I want to give every relative an answer,” Hoegel said. “I am really sorry.”

But Christian Marbach, a spokesman for the affected families whose grandfather was among the victims, doubted Hoegel’s sincerity.

“Hoegel is and remains a liar,” Marbach said. “He tactically only admitted what could already 100 percent be proven against him.”

A verdict is expected on Thursday.

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