Serial killers : the serial homicide case of the day

The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton

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  Bombeek, Cecile

Early in 1977, nurses employed at the public hospital in picturesque Wetteren, Belgium, began comparing notes on curious events in the 38-bed geriatric ward. For openers, the death rate had increased dramatically in recent months, with twenty-one patients lost in the span of a year. Other cases revealed signs of sadistic mistreatment, including catheters ripped from the bladders of elderly patients by "persons unknown." In time, suspicion focused on 44-year-old Sister Godfrida, a Josephite nun assigned to the geriatric ward.

Born Cecile Bombeek , the product of a staunchly Catholic home, Sister Godfrida adopted her religious name after joining the Apostolic Order of St. Joseph. Her behavior appears to have been exemplary before 1976, when the aftermath of brain surgery left her addicted to morphine. Narcotics are available in Wetteren, despite stiff criminal penalties, but they are not inexpensive. Neither were Sister Godfrida's bisexual love affairs with a retired missionary and a local teacher; her lovers enjoyed expensive food, vintage wine, and Cecile was anxious to oblige.

In time, police contended, she began to loot the savings and personal property of her aged patients, embezzling more than $30,000 in a year's time. On the side, she began to display sadistic tendencies, abusing her charges, killing at least three with insulin overdoses when they became "too difficult at night." In retrospect, it was impossible to estimate the lethal sister's body-count. Dr. Jean-Paul De Corte, spokesman for the hospital's governing board, declared, "It could just as well be thirty people as three."

In custody, Cecile's confession to three homicides was sufficient to bring an indictment. In March 1978, she was committed for psychiatric observation, to determine her fitness for trial.

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