Serial murderer kills seven patients in hospital

Havlickuv Brod Hospital, photo: CTK

It was a news report that sent shivers down people's spines - since last May a 30-year old male nurse had killed seven people and attempted to kill ten more at a hospital in eastern Bohemia's Havlickuv Brod. There is no indication that his motive was euthanasia - none of the people he killed were suffering from a terminal illness and they were all expected to recover.

Havlickuv Brod Hospital,  photo: CTK
When thirty year old Petr Zelenka started work at the Havlickuv Brod Hospital as a male nurse over six years ago he seemed like the ideal employee - devoted, enthusiastic and willing to work overtime whenever needed. In his spare time he studied to improve his knowledge of medicine -particularly his knowledge of pharmaceuticals. When in May of this year he was promoted to head nurse on night shifts he started applying his knowledge in practice. On nights when he was in charge the entire intensive care unit was in his hands - and he started injecting his victims with heparin - a blood-thinning drug that can be lethal if applied to the wrong patient. The hospital's head physician Pavel Longin says that the higher number of cases in which patients died as a result of internal hemorrhaging alerted him to the fact that something was wrong.

Pavel Longin,  photo: CTK
"We were investigating the individual cases and ascertaining who was on duty at the time. My initial suspicion was that it might be two or three nurses who were new and inexperienced and possibly prone to making mistakes. I thought we would have to watch them very carefully but instead we found that nurse Zelenka figured in every single case and that was definitely very suspect."

The hospital sacked Zelenka and reported the incident to the police. In the meantime the nurse began work at a hospital in a different Czech town - in Jihlava - where the police arrested him on Friday. There is no indication that he had managed to commit any murders at his new workplace. But any deaths which occurred in that period are being thoroughly investigated and both hospitals have set up hot lines for the public.

Milan Justa,  photo: CTK
In the meantime, the suspect Petr Zelenka is being questioned by the police. Milan Justa who heads the investigation told the media he was certain that the nurse had not been not acting as an angel of mercy.

"This had nothing to do with euthanasia - this was carefully planned, premeditated murder."

The police would not reveal any details of the suspect's testimony - or say why he claimed to have knowingly murdered seven people and attempted to murder ten more. His victims appear to have been chosen at random and some of them had just been admitted to the ward when Zelenka administered his lethal drug. Psychologists say that it may have been a desire to rule over life and death. With seven murders and ten attempted murders to his name Zelenka could face anything between 15 years in prison and a life sentence.