Two medical murder cases separated by an ocean and twenty years are eerily similar, almost perfect “copycats.”
This week a male intensive care nurse in Germany confessed to killing 30 patients at a hospital by injecting them with heart drugs, which immediately made me think of cardiac care nurse Robert Diaz, who, in the 1980s, murdered patients in California hospitals by injecting them with heart drugs.
Choice of murder weapon by these two killers is near-identical. And, other similarities are so astounding and outside the realm of coincidence that it isn’t unreasonable to suspect the German nurse, known only as Niels H., knew of Nurse Diaz’s murder methods before he began killing patients.
Diaz’s murders made international headlines and were well known in medical circles when the German nurse began his training in 1994. There’s even a suggestion German nurse Niels H. intended to best Diaz’s murder total, “boasting” to a cellmate that he is now “the biggest serial murderer in postwar history.”
German authorities say he might have killed 150 to 200 patients over a two-year span, beginning in 2003, at the hospital near Bremen, Germany where he worked, although today he is only being tried for three hospital murders. Diaz, who never confessed but was convicted of a dozen murders and died of natural causes on death row in 2011, might have killed as many as 50 patients over a span of months in 1981 at hospitals where he worked in Southern California.
In the California murders authorities dug up bodies to find out whether they had lethal doses of the heart stimulant Lidocaine in them, key evidence used later to convict Nurse Diaz and sentence him to death. In Germany, authorities are now exhuming as many as 100 dead to test for lethal dosages of a similar heart drug, Gilurytmal. Both heart drugs are used in hospital emergency rooms and can cause seizures and death in large doses. Both killers injected the drugs directly into the veins of patients. Their victims were extremely vulnerable, with German nurse Niels H. murdering mostly terminally ill patients in the ICU. Likewise, Diaz picked his victims carefully by murdering mostly critically ill elderly patients being cared for by him in cardiac and intensive care units.
Neither nurse ended life for purposes of mercy killing.
The German nurse says he injected patients because he then wanted to attempt to resuscitate them, to impress other nurses. In my book about the California hospital murders, Dinner With A Killer, I also disclose why Nurse Diaz killed, even though “motive” was never mentioned at his trial. Book highlights include my exclusive interviews with the serial-killer nurse months before his arrest. (Note to German authorities: The book gives details of how California investigators put together the complicated case against Diaz, down to testing of body organs and tissue.)
Additional similarities between the German murders and Nurse Diaz’s unmerciful handiwork are shocking. Each worked the night shift in the intensive care unit and was often alone with victims. Each had a bad marriage, and like in the case of Diaz, empty vials of the murder drug were found in rooms of dead German patients, and, as with Diaz, fellow nurses became suspicious of Niels H. and had “funny feelings” about him, calling him “unlucky” because he was always around when patients died. His colleagues said similar things about Diaz. When Niels H. worked the hospital’s death rate soared, as it did when Diaz worked. Similarities between the two cases even extend to how German clinic officials tried to explain away the “mysterious” deaths, much the same way California hospital officials tried to do three decades ago. (Note to German clinic officials: The book tells why you should never try to whitewash a murder in a hospital.)
Dinner With A Killer by R.D. Byron-Smith is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other online booksellers.