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Nurse accused of
killing 13 patients insists she's
innocent as trial ends
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
THE HAGUE (AP) - A Dutch nurse accused of murdering 13 patients with drug overdoses insisted she is innocent Tuesday, saying her love for life is so vast she could never kill another person.
Lucy Quirina de Berk's comments brought to a close the five-day trial and judges went into deliberations. They will issue their verdict Oct. 8 and sentence de Berk if she is found guilty. In a final appeal to the court, de Berk, who spent her teenage years in Canada, said prosecutors had unfairly portrayed her as a calculating killer and that she isn't the evil person they made her out to be. "It is true that I often questioned my own life," de Berk told the panel of three judges. "But I never questioned that of another."
"My mother always said I was a difficult and she was right, but to say I killed people just isn't true."
De Berk, who has a history of depression and worked as a prostitute in Vancouver and the Netherlands, has been described by prosecutors as a sociopath who skilfully killed her patients with lethal overdoses of medication for 4½ years.
"We cannot predict what the court will rule," said prosecution spokeswoman Astrid Rijsdorp. "But we are coinvinced she took their lives," she said.
De Berk has admitted lying under oath about her credentials and stealing copies of patient records. Her lawyer Ton Visser argued Tuesday that those offences can't be accepted by the court as proof of an intent to kill.
Visser called for the dismissal of charges, arguing that the prosecution's case was sloppy and inconclusive.
The 41-year-old suspect has been charged with 18 counts of murder and attempted murder at four hospitals in the Hague area. She is a suspect in several other cases, but prosecutors said they didn't have enough evidence to prove her involvement.
De Berk's alleged victims, ranging from infant children to a 91-year-old Chinese judge at the United Nations war crimes tribunal, died between 1997 and 2001 in varying circumstances that puzzled medical experts who testified in her trial.
The defendant's brother, who gave a statement to investigators, called his sister a good liar and said he believed she was capable of killing. Several colleagues were quoted as saying de Berk had an unhealthy attachment to terminally ill patients.
Prosecutors called an FBI expert on serial killers to sketch a profile of the "typical" culprit in multiple murder cases and a toxicologist to explain how her alleged victims had died.
In nearly all cases, chronically ill patients turned blue and died suddenly and unexpectedly while de Berk was on duty. A number of them, including a six-month-old girl successfully operated for heart trouble, had been expected to return home soon.
But the fact that people died while in de Berk's care isn't enough to implicate her in murder, Visser argued. "Coincidence exists," he said.
"If people are ill and are deprived of oxygen they discolour, that doesn't have to mean it was Lucy's fault," he said.
None of the witnesses directly linked de Berk to the deaths or said they were sure she had committed the crimes in her indictment.
Further countering prosecution allegations, Visser cited witness statements describing de Berk as a caring, competent and involved member of her hospital team. Her performance, he said, had not been doubted until prosecutors opened a criminal investigation in Sept. 2001.
De Berk described her difficult youth with alcoholic parents who she said were unable to give her attention. After dropping out of high school and breaking from her family, she was tricked into prostitution and later robbed and beaten by customers.
On Monday, prosecutors requested that she be sentenced to life imprisonment, saying she is a danger to society.
"They have portrayed me as a bad person and I'm just not like that," de Berk told the court in her final plea."I love life and would never take that away from anyone," she said.