- A German nurse who was nicknamed “Resuscitation Rambo” by his coworkers has now been handed a second life sentence for murdering 85 of his patients.
- Niels Högel was accused of administering non-prescribed drugs to patients to send them into cardiac arrests in an attempt to show off his resuscitation skills.
- Police say that he may have killed as many as 200, while one spokesperson for a group of the victims’ relatives puts the number as high as 300.
A German nurse was handed a second life sentence on Thursday for the murder of 85 patients who were once under his care.
The former nurse, Niels Högel is now considered Germany’s deadliest post-war serial killer. The 42-year-old was employed at two clinics, one in Delmenhorst and another in Oldenburg. Prosecutors say that between 2000 and 2005, he had killed at least 100 patients between the ages of 34 and 96.
During his trial, Högel confessed to killing 43 patients, denied killing five, and said he could not remember details about the 52 others. He was later acquitted of 15 deaths due to lack of evidence.
Högel was accused of giving victims various non-prescribed drugs to orchestrate cardiac arrests, knowing full well that doing so could cause the patients to die. Police say he did so in an attempt to show off his resuscitation skills. A former colleague even told the German paper, Bild, that he “always pushed everyone else aside” when resuscitating patients. At work, he was even nicknamed “Resuscitation Rambo.”
During trial hearings, Högel said he felt a sense of euphoria when he was able to bring a patient back to life and felt devastated when he failed, CNN reported. He was eventually caught in the act by a colleague in 2005.
Högel has already been convicted in previous cases for homicide and attempted homicide. He was given his first life sentence in 2015 and those deaths led authorities to investigate hundreds the cases of other patients that he worked with.
During their investigation, authorities reviewed more than 500 patient files and hospital records, exhumed 134 bodies from 67 cemeteries, and conducted dozens of interviews.
Police believe that Högel may be responsible for as many as 200 murders, but can’t be certain because of gaps in his memory and because many patients were cremated before autopsies could be performed. One spokesperson for a group of the victims’ relatives says that number could be as high as 300.
The judge in his case, Judge Sebastian Bührmann, said Högel’s actions were “incomprehensible.”
“The human mind struggles to take in the sheer scale of these crimes,” he added. “I felt like an accountant of death.” Bührmann also cited a psychologist’s assessment that the former nurse was a narcissist who liked to cast himself as a hero.
Prosecutors had sought to charge Högel with 97 murders, but the defense argued that only 55 cases had been proved beyond doubt. The defense said that he should only be found guilty of attempted murder in 14 cases and acquitted of an additional 31.
However, the sentencing judge ultimately handed down Högel’s second life sentence in the most severe form possible under German law, which excludes the possibility of early release after serving 15 years.
The court also barred him from ever working as a nurse, emergency medical responder or any other job providing care. “We want to be sure that you never, ever again are able to work in such a job,” the judge said.
A psychiatrist who served as an expert witness during the trial said that while Högel did suffer from personality disorders, showed by his like a lack of shame, guilt and empathy, he was still psychologically competent to stand trial and serve his sentence.
In court on Wednesday, Högel asked his victims’ families for forgiveness. “I want to apologise wholeheartedly to every single one of you for what I have done over the years.”
He added that over the course of the trial, he had come to understand the amount of suffering his “terrible deeds” had caused.
But his apology wasn’t received well by many. Gaby Lübben, one of the lawyers representing victims’ relatives, told Bild that the apology was not credible. “He only acted out his remorse to gather plus points […] He should have stayed silent.”
Hospitals Face Criticism
During the trial, many have wondered how the hospitals managed to turn a blind eye to the unusually high mortality rates among Högel’s patients.
Former colleagues at the Delmenhorst clinic admitted to having suspicions about him. However, all of the staff from Oldenburg said they were completely unaware of his actions. The sentencing judge condemned the staff for being oblivious to the rising death toll, calling their missed observations “collective amnesia.”
The judge ordered eight of Högel’s former colleagues to be investigated on perjury because of suspicion they had lied to the court or had withheld evidence in the most recent trial. According to the New York Times, two doctors and two head nurses from the Delmenhorst hospital have been charged with manslaughter. Meanwhile, authorities are investigating other hospital employees and Högel could be called to testify in those trials.
News of Högel’s sentencing comes amid outrage over the behaviors of other healthcare professionals. On Wednesday, prosecutors in Ohio charged a doctor with 25 counts of murder for allegedly overprescribing pain medications to patients.
Biden Vows to Defend Taiwan if Attacked by China
Some praised the remarks for clarifying U.S. foreign policy, while others feared they could escalate tensions with China.
Biden’s Remarks Create Confusion
During a Monday press conference in Tokyo, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would intervene to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
The remark caught many off guard because it contradicted decades of traditional U.S. foreign policy toward China.
A reporter said, “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
“Yes,” Biden answered. “That’s a commitment we made. We are not — look, here’s the situation. We agree with a One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there.”
“But the idea that it can be taken by force — just taken by force — is just not appropriate,” he continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
Beijing considers the Taiwanese island to be a breakaway province, but Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has claimed to represent the real historical lineage of China.
Since 1972, the U.S. has officially recognized only one China, with its capital in Beijing. However, Washington maintains extensive informal diplomatic ties with Taipei and provides military assistance through weapons and training.
Successive U.S. presidents have also committed to a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” refusing to promise or rule out a direct military intervention in case China attacks Taiwan.
The strategy is meant to deter China while avoiding a hard commitment to any action.
Biden Sparks Controversy
The White House quickly sent a statement to reporters appearing to walk back Biden’s remark.
“As the president said, our policy has not changed,” the statement said. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”
Monday was not the first time Biden made similar remarks regarding China and Taiwan.
Last August, he promised that “we would respond” if there was an attack against a fellow member of NATO and then added, “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan.”
In October, he again told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, prompting the White House to hurriedly walk back his statement.
Monday’s remark was received with support as well as criticism.
“Strategic ambiguity is over. Strategic clarity is here,” Tweeted Matthew Kroenig, professor of government at Georgetown University. “This is the third time Biden has said this. Good. China should welcome this. Washington is helping Beijing to not miscalculate.”
“It is truly dangerous for the president to keep misstating U.S. policy toward Taiwan,” historian Stephen Wertheim wrote in a tweet. “How many more times will this happen?”
“The West’s robust response to Russian aggression in Ukraine could serve to deter China from invading Taiwan, but Biden’s statement risks undoing the potential benefit and instead helping to bring about a Taiwan conflict,” he added. “Self-injurious and entirely unforced.”
Biden also unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a trade agreement signed by the U.S. and 12 Asian nations.
The agreement appeared to many like another move to cut off China from regional trade pacts and supply chains in Washington’s strategic competition with Beijing.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The South China Morning Post)
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)
Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls
Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.
Hundreds Make It Out Alive
A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.
People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.
The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.
Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.
“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.
“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Putin’s Plans Go Poorly
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.
On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.
The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”
Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.
After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.
“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.
Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.
The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”
“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.
Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.