Brazilian doctor Virginia Soares de Souza could be more prolific than Harold Shipman if it is proved she killed up to 300 patients to free up beds

De Souza is accused of masterminding a “gang of death” involving several members of her medical team

Rio de Janeiro

A Brazilian doctor charged with killing seven patients to free up hospital beds for those with private health insurance may have been responsible for up to 300 deaths, the country’s Health Ministry has said.

Officials investigating Virginia Soares de Souza, 56, are reviewing more than 1,800 medical records at the hospital where she was the head of intensive care since 2006. If the number of deaths suspected of being linked to Ms de Souza is proven, she would have been a more prolific serial killer than British doctor Harold Shipman, who was found to have killed at least 215 people.

Ms de Souza, a widow who worked at the Evangelical Hospital in the city of Curitiba, the capital of the southern state of Paraná, is accused of masterminding a “gang of death” involving several members of her medical team. Three anaesthetists - Edison Anselmo Silva Junior, Maria Israela Cortez Bocato and Anderson de Freitas - were also arrested last month while another 13 doctors and 34 nurses have been transferred out of the department.

She is suspected of repeatedly giving patients the muscle relaxing drug Pavulon and turning off their oxygen machines. One nurse interviewed on Brazilian television, who worked in the hospital from 2004 to 2006, said she saw de Souza turn off a life-support machine, killing a patient.

Marcus Michelotto, inspector general of the Civil Police of Paraná, said: “We have been investigating this for about a year. There was sufficient evidence to require the arrest as a medical precaution.”

According to reports in Brazilian press the case came to light after a complaint was made to the health watchdog last year. Since then, at least 50 other complaints have been filed. State prosecutors claim they have telephone recordings that reveal Ms de Souza was driven by a desire to clear beds in the hospital for other patients, whose health care was funded privately. She allegedly said in a phone conversation: “I want to clear the intensive care unit. It’s making me itch. Unfortunately, our mission is to be go-betweens on the springboard to the next life.”

Police added it was unlikely she was working alone given the number of suspected suspicious deaths.

De Souza denies the charges and defended her record at the hospital where she has worked since 1988. In an interview with Fantastico earlier this month, which was approved by magistrates, she said: “I was never careless, I’ve never been reckless, never had an ethical breach or a complaint registered against me, and I practised medicine consciously and correctly.” She said any errors that happened were not intentional.

Last month, her lawyer, Elias Mattar Assad, issued a statement saying the police lacked evidence. “The police are not able to prove a criminal act. They show a body and say that his death happened because of a reason other than that on the death certificate? I challenge them to prove it”

But prosecutors said Ms de Souza would have felt “all powerful” and believed she “had the power to decree the moment when a victim would die.”

It is alleged that in some cases, she gave orders over the telephone to other doctors, according to court documents. Last week, a Curitiba judge ordered the release of Ms de Souza and her medical team on bail. On Monday, police filed a fresh request to arrest her  on the grounds that she was the ringleader of the gang and could coerce witnesses. She appeared in court today as part of the requirement to report monthly while the case is ongoing.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice