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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nurse Accused of Killing 22 Patients

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- A nurse and a doctor have been charged in the killing of 22 patients at a nursing home, police said Tuesday.


The victims, aged 65 to 97, died after injections of a morphine-based drug allegedly administered by the nurse, police said.


Police referred to the killings as "euthanasia," but it was not immediately clear if any of the victims were cases of assisted suicide. Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Denmark.


The nurse also is charged with theft and embezzlement from nursing home patients of 629,000 kroner ($108,000).


"I'm shocked," Ib Schultz, manager of the modern facility in downtown Copenhagen, told Danish television. He declined further comment on the case.


Jan Brockhoff, a member of one of the local councils that advise city authorities on matters concerning the elderly, said the investigation began in February.


"The family of a person who died there contacted the council about some theft but also because the death itself was a unnatural," Brockhoff told reporters who had gathered outside the nursing home near Copenhagen's main railway station.


"We passed the information to [the city officials] and the investigation began shortly after," Brockhoff said. He declined to elaborate.


Police said the killings took place at the state-run nursing home between August 1994 and March of this year. The victims were 15 women and seven men. The nurse was fired in March although the reason for the dismissal was not immediately known.


The nurse, in a tearful court appearance, denied the killings and said she had given the morphine-based medicine to patients on orders of the doctor, Danish radio said.


She is charged with murder and the doctor with negligent homicide and breach of duty.


Police said the killings came to light during an investigation of fraud at the home. The theft could be the motive for the killings, Danish radio said.


In the initial investigation, Copenhagen medical authorities noticed that there had been eight deaths in the nurse's department this year while only one person had died in another similar department, the radio said quoting court documents.


Neighbors of the nursing home said the were stunned by the news.


"I always thought it was a nice institution. They held parties in the backyard in the summer and residents seem so cheerful and happy," said a plumber who declined to give his name.


The Copenhagen City Court on Tuesday banned publication of the names of the nurse, the doctor, the home or any of the 22 deceased -- a common practice in Denmark.