Former US nurse admits to hospital serial killings

A former nurse told prosecutors in New Jersey yesterday that he killed dozens of patients in several hospitals in the course of his 16-year medical career because they were "very sick" and deserved relief from their suffering.

The confession by Charles Cullen, 43, has sparked one of the most intense serial-killer investigations seen in the United States. Authorities said they were studying records from 10 hospitals where the suspect is known to have worked in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In his first court appearance yesterday, Cullen said he had no plans to contest the charges. "I am going to plead guilty. I don't plan to fight this," he said. He told Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong that he did not want a lawyer. The judge ordered him held on $1 million bail.

Prosecutors charged Cullen with the murder of a Catholic priest, the Very Rev. Florian Gall, who died while hospitalised at the Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey in June. He was also charged with the attempted killing of another patient, a 40-year-old woman, at the same hospital.

After his arrest, the nurse reportedly told investigators that his record of killing was far more extensive. Under questioning, he insisted he had killed 30-40 patients by means of lethal overdose during his career, which began in 1987.

He went on to claim that they had all been mercy killings of patients who had been "very sick". He declared that his purpose was to spare them from unnecessary pain and suffering.

It may be weeks before investigators can finish attempting to corroborate his claims. However, officials last night said they were inclined to believe them. "The evidence that we have indicates that may very well be the case," commented Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest.

Mr Cullen came to the attention of investigators after he was fired by the Somerset Medical Center on 31 October. At the time, however, the authorities had no notion that the case might turn into a serial killer investigation.

The hospital acted after discovering that Cullen was linked directly to six cases where laboratory blood tests on patients had turned in unusual results, indicating abnormalities so serious as to be life-threatening. Four showed dangerously low blood sugar levels. Two others had elevated levels of a heart drug that can cause heart failure if excessive doses are used. Four of the six patients subsequently died.

The Very Rev. Gall died on 28 June this year after an excessive level of digoxin was found in his blood. The other patient, a woman with heart and cancer problems, recovered from a similar overdose of the drug and was discharged from hospital. She died in September, however. Prosecutors said Cullen had confessed responsibility in both cases.

Questions will be asked about how Cullen's alleged activities went undetected for so long. Several hospitals where he worked carried out investigations into him, but none of the information was shared between them. "None of these investigations were reported to the authorities," confirmed Dr William Cors, the Somerset Chief Medical Officer.

Suggested Topics
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
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
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
Latest stories from i100
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

IT Auditor

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: IT Auditor , Information Governance, NHS...

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform