A Belgian judge jailed a former nurse and Roman Catholic deacon for 27 years Thursday for killing five people including his own mother in what he said was a bid to end their suffering.
Ivo Poppe, 61, had been charged with at least ten murders, but admitted during the trial in the northern city of Bruges to killing between ten and 20, many of them by injecting air into their veins.
A jury found Poppe — dubbed the “Deacon of Death” in the Belgian media — guilty of five murders: his mother, his stepfather, two great-uncles and a patient at the clinic where he worked.
Prosecutors dismissed Poppe’s claims of extenuating circumstances.
“His clean record does not give him any credit. He committed his first act when he was 22 years old, when he killed his great-uncle using a cushion,” one prosecutor was quoted as saying by Belga news agency.
Belgian media reported that prosecutors rejected Poppe’s claims to have euthanised his victims, saying that he “clearly enjoyed his power of life or death”.
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.
A married father of three, Poppe was arrested in 2014 after authorities were informed that he had told his psychiatrist he had “actively euthanised dozens of people” at the clinic in Menin, 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.
Most of the victims were people nearing the end of their lives, and he said he decided to put them out of their physical or mental pain by injecting air into their veins, causing fatal embolisms.
The bearded, bespectacled Poppe told investigators that he was stressed at the time that many of the murders were carried out because his house was under renovation and his wife was sick.
His lawyers had argued that a long sentence would serve no purpose because he was suffering from cancer and would shortly need to have an operation.
“Having cancer is terrible but having cancer in prison is a nightmare,” one of the lawyers argued.