Nurse sentenced to life for murder of 5 patients in Germany

A nurse was convicted of murdering 5 patients at a top Berlin hospital with overdoses of medication and sentenced to life in prison.

Irene Becker, 54, fought back tears as the verdict was read out at the Berlin state court.

The murder charges resulted from an investigation of the deaths of 15 patients who had died after being under Becker's care.

Prosecutors brought charges over a total of eight seriously ill patients, aged 48 to 77, who died between June 2005 and October 2006 in the cardiology ward of Berlin's Charite hospital. Becker was acquitted in three of the deaths.

When she went on trial in April, she admitted to four killings, and her attorney argued that they were the lesser crime of manslaughter. She said she had pitied the patients and wanted to shorten their suffering.

The court rejected that argument. It found, for example, that in one case she ignored a 48-year-old woman's wish to die at home and killed her.

The presiding judge, Peter Faust, criticized a lack of supervision and communication at the hospital. The Charite said it had taken action to resolve those problems.

The trial in Berlin followed the conviction last November of another German nurse for killing 28 patients at a hospital in southern Germany with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

Stephan Letter, 28, was sentenced to life for 12 counts of murder, 15 of manslaughter and one mercy killing in what has been described as Germany's worst case of serial murder since World War II.

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