German police probe 80 deaths after nurse arrest

Last updated at 15:28 05 August 2004

German police investigating a male nurse who admitted killing 10 elderly patients with lethal injections are checking whether he deliberately caused 70 further deaths, authorities said today.

The 25-year-old man, who was not named, worked in a hospital in the southern German town of Sonthofen and said he had killed the 10 patients aged 60 and over because he couldn't stand seeing them "wasting away" in pain, police and prosecutors said.

Police are checking how ill the patients had been. The nurse was arrested last week after coming under suspicion of stealing quantities of a tranquiliser drug and a muscle relaxant from the hospital which, when injected in combination, cause death.

Three bodies were exhumed from cemeteries on Thursday, Peter Koch, spokesman for the prosecutor's office in the southern town of Kempten said.

"Forensic examinations are currently being carried out but results won't be known for several weeks," Koch said in a statement.

"After checking his work rota and the incidents of death in the section of Sonthofen hospital where he was working, some 70 deaths are being checked, not including the 10 cases already known," authorities in Kempten said in separate statement.

They said there was no indication at present that any of the 70 people were murdered, but the quantity of missing drugs had prompted them to extend the investigation.

The 10 patients killed were six women aged between 70 and 89 and four men aged 60 to 88. The nurse worked in the hospital's internal diseases ward.

No further details were immediately available.

If the 70 deaths are confirmed as killings, it could turn into Germany's biggest case of serial murder since World War Two and is likely to evoke comparisons with Britain's "Dr Death" Harold Shipman, a general practitioner who killed at least 215 of his patients.

Shipman hanged himself in January never having said what drove him to kill.