Belgium ‘deacon of death’ trial begins
A Roman Catholic deacon who, if convicted, would go down as one of the worst serial killers in Belgian history, went on trial in Bruges this week.
Ivo Poppe, 61, who has been called the “deacon of death” by the media, spent around 30 years working as a nurse at a clinic in the western town of Menen (pictured), where he is accused of killing numerous patients. He later worked at the same clinic for a decade as a pastoral visitor after being ordained as a deacon.
The married father of three children is accused of murdering at least 10 people, including his mother, father-in-law and two other relatives.
His mother had reportedly been suffering from depression but her doctors have denied that she would have chosen to be euthanised.
A criminal inquiry has established a list of at least 50 suspect deaths, based on a count of fatalities at the clinic recorded in Poppe’s diary.
Most of the alleged victims died after air was injected into their blood and all were elderly.
Poppe was arrested in 2014 after confessing to a psychiatrist about “actively euthanising” many people. He separately made two partial confessions during an inquiry, claiming to have acted “out of compassion” to end people’s suffering.
He has retracted those statements and now denies any culpability.
The first alleged murder occurred in 1978 and the last was in 2011: his 89-year-old mother.
One of Poppe’s lawyers said the list of fatalities in the diary, which contained names and dates with crosses alongside, should not be treated as a record of his deeds. The list also reportedly recorded the death of King Baudouin in 1993.
In 2014 Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, the head of the diocese at the time of the killings and now the most senior religious leader in Belgium, said he was “stunned” by the allegations and pledged the full cooperation of the Roman Catholic church.
Government officials from the diocese will testify at Poppe’s trial, along with other witnesses, relatives, and psychiatrists.
The trial began as a male nurse serving a life term in neighbouring Germany for killing six hospital patients with lethal drugs out of “boredom” will face trial for another 97 killings.
Menen, Belgium, on the French border. Picture credit: Wikimedia