Dutch 'angel of death' not guilty after all

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Dutchwoman Lucia de Berk, convicted in 2003 for a series of murders, has been cleared of murder and attempted murder by a court in Arnhem. The decision was greeted by loud applause from the crowded courtroom.

Caretaker Justice Minister Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has written to Lucia de Berk, expressing his sympathy for the fact that she wrongly spent 6.5 years in jail.

Responding to the ruling by the court of appeal in Arnhem, he described what had happened to Ms De Berk as 'horrifying'.

source: ANP

The 48-year-old nurse, whom the press once dubbed "the angel of death", also received a personal apology from the head of the Public Prosecutor's Office, Harm Brouwer, for the six and a half years she spent in prison.

The court ruled it could not be established that the alleged 'victims' - elderly and very young patients - had died as a result of human action.

In 2001 Lucia de Berk was suspected of involvement in the unexplained death of a baby at the Juliana Children's Hospital in The Hague, one of three hospitals where she worked. This was followed by several other unexpected deaths of young children and elderly patients. Statistical evidence showed that more people died when sister De Berk was on duty than at other times.

She was accused of poisoning her patients and, in 2003, convicted on seven counts of murder and three of attempted murder. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Following a great deal of research, it began to look less certain that the baby had not died a natural death. In 2008 the Supreme Court decided to re-open the case.

Lucia de Berk has written a book about her experiences. It is due to appear in bookstores later this week.


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