Belgian ‘deacon of death’ admits killing up to 20, ‘including his own mother,’ by injecting them with air
A Roman Catholic deacon and former nurse, Poppe was arrested by police after he told his psychiatrist that he had killed ‘dozens’ of people
A former nurse and Roman Catholic deacon admitted to killing up to 20 people on the first day of his trial on Monday, telling a Belgian court that he fatally injected them with air to end their “suffering”.
This is the first time Ivo Poppe, 61, who has been dubbed the “Deacon of Death” by Belgian media, is the first time he has publicly given an estimate of the number of his victims, local reports said.
During an initial investigation he told police his victims also included his own mother, his stepfather and two uncles.
During initial questioning by the judge on Monday, Poppe reportedly told the court in the scenic city of Bruges that he had killed “Between 10 and 20 – 20 maximum. That’s approximate, but it’s around that number.”
He added: “I wanted to end their suffering, these people weren’t really living any more.”
The married father-of-three expressed regret for the way he carried out the killings, saying: “If it was now, I would call a palliative care team.”
Poppe either gave his victims the tranquilliser Valium or injected air into their veins to cause a fatal embolism.
Most of the victims were elderly people suffering from physical or psychological ailments at a clinic in Menin, a town near the French border.
He worked there in the 1980s and 1990s but continued to act as a pastoral visitor until 2011 after he was ordained as a deacon.
He was first arrested in 2014 after authorities were told that he had confided in his psychiatrist that he had “euthanised dozens of people”.
The bearded, bespectacled Poppe, who appeared in court wearing a chunky cardigan and open-necked shirt, explained the context of his comments to the psychiatrist, whom he consulted on the advice of his wife.
“I wanted someone to help me with my nightmares, I really needed therapy. That’s why I talked about dozens of cases, it was deliberately exaggerated,” Poppe told the court.
The trial is expected to last two weeks. Poppe faces life in jail if convicted.
Belgium legalised euthanasia for adults in 2002 – after the period when most of Poppe’s alleged killings took place – although it has to be carried out under strictly controlled conditions.
In 2014, it extended the right to children so long as they are conscious and capable of making rational decisions.