While the majority of nurses dedicate themselves to saving lives or bringing new life into the world, some nurses — who are called Angels of Death by the media — abuse and kill their patients, betraying the trust given to them by the very people they’re supposed to protect. Sadly, serial killer nurses often harm the most helpless of victims, including babies, the elderly, and terminally ill patients, making their crimes some of the most disturbing murders known to man. Angels of Death have murdered people all over the world, like Amelia Dyer, a British nurse who may have killed hundreds of victims, and Christine Malèvre, a French woman who might have claimed the lives of 30 people.
American nurses Charles Cullen and Kristen Gilbert murdered adult victims, as did Finnish serial killer Aino Nykopp-Koski, Canadian Angel of Death Elizabeth Wettlaufer, and German murderer Stephan Letter. Jane Toppan also killed adults, murdering not only her patients, but also their daughters. New York nurse Richard Angelo targeted elderly victims, perhaps in order to look like a hero in front of his co-workers when he saved his patients’ lives, while British serial killer Beverley Allitt murdered at least four young children and caused serious injuries to several more.
While working as a nurse at hospitals and private homes in the Boston area, Jane Toppan murdered several of her patients, their family members, and even her landlords, her foster sister, and the sibling of a man she wanted to marry. The female serial killer’s victims ranged in age from 40 to 83, and Toppan murdered people by injecting them with drugs like atropine and morphine and poisoning them with strychnine. Toppan — who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1857 — took the lives of at least eight people, including a married couple, Mattie and Alden Davis, and their two daughters, Genevieve and Mary, one by one from July 4, 1901, to August 13, 1901.
This Angel of Death’s crimes were finally discovered when relatives of the Davis family became suspicious and asked the authorities to perform a toxicology test on Mary’s corpse. After finding a large amount of morphine in the woman’s body, law enforcement arrested Toppan on October 26, 1901, and she confessed to killing more than 30 people, claiming murder gave her a sexual thrill. The serial killer nurse was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and Toppan died in 1938 in the Taunton Insane Hospital at 81 years old.
While working as a nurse at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Northampton, Massachusetts, Kristen Gilbert killed at least four people by giving them overdoses of epinephrine, a heart stimulant. Gilbert — who was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, on November 13, 1967 — killed her victims between 1995 and 1996, ending the lives of veterans Stanley Jagodowski, 65; Henry Hudon, 35; Kenneth Cutting, 41; and Edward Skwira, 69. In 1996, her colleagues reported missing epinephrine and increased cardiac arrest deaths to their supervisors, sparking a thorough investigation that determined Gilbert had killed at least four people.
During her trial, the prosecutor claimed the serial killer nurse caused her patients to have heart attacks so that she could resuscitate them, allowing Gilbert to look like a hero in front of her boyfriend who also worked at the hospital. Staff at the VAMC speculated that the female serial killer may have caused the deaths of 80 patients, but on March 14, 2001, Gilbert was found guilty of just four murders and two attempted murders. This Angel of Death was given four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole; Gilbert is currently in a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
In April 1896, law enforcement visited the home of Amelia Dyer — a nurse who was working as a midwife — after the corpse of a dead infant was found near the River Thames, wrapped in paper that featured her London address. Immediately after they entered Dyer’s house, the officers were overwhelmed by the pungent odor of human decomposition, and a search of the nurse’s home uncovered numerous vaccination records, piles of children’s clothing, copies of ads she’d placed in local newspapers about her adoption services, and the remains of 50 babies.
Following a thorough investigation, the authorities discovered Dyer — who was born in 1837 near Bristol, England — had presented herself as a baby farmer, a professional who helped people find loving families for their unwanted children. However, law enforcement learned that instead of placing the babies in good homes, Dyer took the money from the desperate parents and strangled the infants to death, sometimes discarding their tiny corpses in the River Thames. While authorities were never able to determine exactly how many children were murdered by the English nurse, experts have speculated that Dyer could have killed as many 400 victims over a period of 20 years, making her one of the most prolific serial murderers in the country’s history. However, Dyer was only found guilty of one count of murder. She was hanged on June 10, 1896, at approximately 60 years old.
Over the course of just a few months in 1987, Richard Angelo killed at least eight people while working as a nurse at the Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York. Angelo — who was born on August 29, 1962, in Long Island — killed his victims by administering fatal doses of a powerful paralytic that caused his patients to experience respiratory arrest. The serial killer nurse was caught when one of Angelo’s patients complained of feeling unwell after being treated by the Angel of Death, and a urine test revealed the elderly man had been injected with a muscle relaxant he had not been prescribed.
In October 1987, Angelo was arrested for assaulting the patient, and the nurse admitted to injecting several other people with large doses of paralytics and muscle relaxants. An investigation into the serial killer’s crimes revealed Angelo administered the drugs to people to make them gravely ill, and then he tried to save the patients’ lives, enabling the New York nurse to behave heroically in front of his co-workers. In December 1989, Angelo was convicted of one count of criminally negligent homicide, two counts of murder, and one count of manslaughter, and on January 25, 1990, he was given 50 years to life for his crimes. Angelo in currently incarcerated in the Great Meadows Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York.
During a two-month period in 1991, Beverley Allitt killed four children while working at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital in Lincolnshire, England, making her one of the country’s few known female serial killers. Allitt — who was born on October 4, 1968, in Grantham, England — murdered Liam Taylor, 7 weeks; Timothy Hardwick, 11; Becky Phillips, 2 months; and Claire Peck, 15 months. In addition to killing four young children, this serial murderer attempted to end the lives of several other victims, including Becky Phillips’ twin sister Katie.
This Angel of Death’s crimes were discovered when her fellow nurses noticed an increase in deaths on the children’s ward, and law enforcement conducted an investigation and determined Allitt was the common denominator. While authorities weren’t able to discern how she caused all of her victims’ deaths, they found evidence to suggest Allitt killed her patients by giving them massive doses of insulin or injecting them with air bubbles. On May 28, 1993, Allitt — who pleaded not guilty — was convicted of four counts of murder and 11 counts of attempted murder, and she was given 13 concurrent life sentences. Unfortunately, she has never explained why she murdered her young victims; Allitt is currently in a secure psychiatric facility in Rampton, Nottinghamshire.
From January 2003 to July 2004, Stephan Letter killed a minimum of 29 patients while he was working at a hospital in the Bavarian Alps. Letter — who was born in Germany in 1978 — murdered his victims by injecting them with fatal doses of powerful muscle relaxants and anesthetics, making him one of the country’s most notorious Angels of Death. This German serial killer’s crimes were discovered when a hospital investigation into missing medicine revealed Letter had murdered nearly 30 people who ranged in age from 40 to 94. Officials believe it’s possible Letter killed a total of 80 men and women, but they were only able to conclusively link the murderous nurse with the deaths of 29 people, largely because many of his other suspected victims were cremated after dying.
Letter was arrested in August 2004, and he quickly confessed to murdering several of his patients, stating he “did it out of sincere, deeply felt compassion.” This serial killer nurse was convicted of multiple counts of murder in November 2006, and he was given life in prison for his crimes. This German Angel of Death is currently in a correctional facility in the city of Straubing.
While working as a nurse in private homes, nursing facilities, and hospitals in Finland, Aino Nykopp-Koski — one of the world’s few known Finnish serial killers — murdered five of her elderly patients between 2004 and 2005. This Angel of Death’s victims ranged in age from 70 to 91, and she ended their lives by giving them lethal doses of opiates and sedatives. Nykopp-Koski pleaded not guilty to harming her patients, claiming they died after accidentally or intentionally taking excessive amounts of their prescription medications.
This serial killer nurse was examined by a psychiatrist who determined Nykopp-Koski was a psychopath with antisocial personality disorder, but she was legally sane. In December 2012, this Finnish Angel of Death was convicted of multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, and aggravated assault, and she was given life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving just 12 years behind bars. Nykopp-Koski is currently incarcerated in a correctional facility in Finland.
Over the course of seven years, nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer murdered several elderly women and men while working in a private home and multiple nursing facilities in Ontario, Canada. Between 2007 and 2014, Wettlaufer killed eight of her patients — ranging in age from 75 to 85 — by administering lethal doses of insulin to the elderly men and women. The Canadian Angel of Death’s murder spree was uncovered after some worrying information the nurse shared with a psychiatric hospital was given to police, sparking an investigation into Wettlaufer.
The female serial killer was arrested for multiple counts of murder in 2016, and in June 2017, Wettlaufer — who claimed she “got that laughing feeling” when she killed her victims — pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault, four counts of attempted murder, and eight counts of murder. On June 26, 2017, Wettlaufer was given life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Possibly the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, Charles Cullen admitted to killing 40 people between 1988 and 2003, but experts believe this serial killer nurse may have ended the lives of as many as 400 victims. Cullen — who was born in West Orange, New Jersey, on February 22, 1960 — murdered his patients while working at various hospitals and nursing facilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, usually by injecting them with fatal doses of insulin or digoxin, a medication used to treat heart conditions. This Angel of Death killed both male and female patients who ranged in age from 21 to 91, and Cullen’s crimes were discovered when his colleagues noticed he was requesting drugs that hadn’t been prescribed to his patients, as well as other irregularities.
On December 12, 2003, Cullen was arrested for one count of attempted murder and one count of murder, and two days later the serial killer nurse confessed to killing several other patients. While Cullen claimed he ended his victims’ lives in order to stop their suffering, many of the patients he killed were not in pain, nor were they close to death, causing officials to dismiss this explanation. Cullen was tried in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and he was convicted of killing more than 20 people and given multiple consecutive life sentences. This serial killer nurse is currently housed in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey; it’s highly unlikely Cullen will ever be released.
Between 1997 and 1998, French serial killer Christine Malèvre murdered at least four of her patients while working as a nurse on the cancer ward at François Quesnay Hospital, a medical facility near Paris. Malèvre — who was born in France on January 10, 1970 — ended her victims lives by injecting them with overdoses of prescription drugs. This Angel of Death was reportedly called the “Black Widow” by her co-workers at the hospital because so many of Malèvre’s patients died while under her care. Investigators questioned the French nurse about the large number of deaths on the cancer ward, and Malèvre admitted to the killings, insisting the patients had terminal illnesses and had asked her to help them end their lives. However, family members of her victims are adamant their loved ones wouldn’t have asked Malèvre to euthanize them.
Malèvre was charged with seven murders — although officials think she may have killed as many as 30 people — and during her 2003 trial, the French serial killer admitted to murdering four of her victims. Ultimately, Malèvre was convicted of six murders, but she was only sentenced to 10 years for her crimes. In 2007, the French serial killer was released from prison, having served just four years of her sentence.
Test Your Knowledge About Angels of Death!
Jane Toppan worked as a nurse in which U.S. city?
Jane Toppan worked as a nurse in private homes and hospitals in the Boston area.
Beverley Allitt killed which group of people?
Beverley Allitt killed children while working as a nurse in England.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer used which drug to kill elderly patients?
Elizabeth Wettlaufer killed at least eight of her elderly patients by giving them lethal doses of insulin.
How many people do experts believe Charles Cullen killed?
Experts believe Charles Cullen may have killed as many as 400 people while working as a nurse.
Why did Richard Angelo give his victims overdoses of drugs?
Richard Angelo gave his victims overdoses of drugs so that he could save their lives and look like a hero.
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