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German nurse on trial over 100 killings addresses relatives

Defendant Niels Hoegel who is charged with the killing of 100 patients as nurse on an intensive care unit waits for the beginning of the third day of his trial in the court in Oldenburg, western Germany, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (Mohssen Assanimoghaddam//pool photo via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — A former nurse accused of killing 100 patients at two hospitals in northern Germany addressed the families of his victims on Thursday and expressed regret.

“If there was a way to help you, I would do it, believe me,” said Niels Hoegel, who is on trial at a regional court in the northwestern city of Oldenburg.

The 41-year-old said he was now convinced he owed an answer to the families of each victim, German news agency dpa reported.

Hoegel had earlier told the court he initially wasn’t moved by the killings, which occurred over a decade ago.

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

The murder charges stem from Hoegel’s time at a hospital in Oldenburg between 1999 and 2002 and at another hospital in nearby Delmenhorst from 2003 to 2005. The alleged victims were aged between 34 and 96.

Hoegel was convicted in 2015 of two murders and two attempted murders. He said then 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.

The Oldenburg state court is conducting the trial at a courtroom set up in a conference center, a venue chosen to accommodate the large public interest in the proceedings and the many co-plaintiffs.

Hoegel told the court last month 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.

An additional conviction could affect Hoegel’s possibility of parole, but there are no consecutive sentences in Germany. In general, people serving life sentences are considered for parole after 15 years.

The trial is scheduled to last until May.

Police have said that, if local health officials hadn’t hesitated in alerting authorities, Hoegel could have been stopped earlier.

Authorities are pursuing criminal cases against former staff at the two medical facilities.

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