Former nurse Niels Hoegel, right, accused of multiple murders and attempted murder of patients, arrives for a session of the district court in Oldenburg, Germany, June 6, 2019.
Former nurse Niels Hoegel, right, accused of multiple murders and attempted murder of patients, arrives for a session of the district court in Oldenburg, Germany, June 6, 2019.

A German nurse was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for murdering 85 hospital patients, in what is believed to be the worst killing spree in Germany's post-war history.

Niels Hoegel was convicted of murdering many of his patients at two hospitals over a five-year period between 2000 and 2005. Authorities say the victims — ranging in age from 34 to 96 — were randomly selected for lethal injections.  

Judge Sebastian Buehrmann called the murders "incomprehensible."

Early in his trial, Hoegel confessed to 100 murders. He later changed his confession, claiming responsibility for 43 of the murders and denying five of them. Hoegel said he did not remember if he committed the other 52 murders. He was acquitted of 15, due to insufficient evidence.

Prosecutors said the 42-year-old Hoegel gave non-prescribed drugs to his patients, with the intent of demonstrating his resuscitation abilities and keep busy. He was also accused of failing to provide adequate aid in response to the drugging of his patients.

Hoegel is already serving a life sentence for crimes committed prior to Thursday's sentence. In 2015, he was convicted of two murders, three attempted murder charges, and one dangerous bodily assault charge.

Police suspect that Hoegel is responsible for many more murders, but probable victims have been cremated, making it impossible to conduct autopsies. Police estimate the death toll at more than 200 victims.

On the last day of his hearing, Hoegel apologized to the victims' families "for everything I did to you over the course of years."