“The realization of what we were able to learn is horrifying,” Johan Kühme, chief of police in the northern German city of Oldenburg told news outlets, including the The New York Times. “It defies any scope of the imagination.”
The nurse, Niels Högel, was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 on two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. But during his trial, he said he had killed many others.
Högel admitted he had intentionally induced cardiac arrest in 90 of his patients by administering overdoses of heart medication. He said he enjoyed trying to revive his patients, the Times reports, but sometimes failed.
These admissions led police to launch an investigation into other times patients had died in his care.
“The special commission, launched in October 2014, combed through evidence that included more than 500 patient files,” according to the Times. “It based its conclusions in part on toxicology tests on the remains of 134 possible victims, who were exhumed to see if they contained traces of the chemicals the nurse had confessed to using.”
Police await toxicology reports in 41 cases. The actual number of those he killed may be greater still and never known, as the bodies of some of his former patients were cremated and could not be exhumed.
“The death toll is unique in the history of the German republic,” said the chief police investigator, Arne Schmidt, according to The Guardian. There was “evidence for at least 90 murders, and at least as many [suspected] cases again that can no longer be proven,” he said, adding that Högel had chosen his victims at random.