Lainz Angels of Death

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Maria Gruber, Irene Leidolf, Stephanija Meyer, and Waltraud Wagner (Born 1960) made up one of the most unusual crime teams in 20th Century Europe. The four Austrian women were nurses working at Lainz General Hospital in Vienna, and together murdered scores of patients.

Wagner, 23, was the first to kill a patient with an overdose of morphine in 1983. She discovered in the process that she enjoyed playing God and holding the power of life and death in her hands. She recruited Gruber, 19, and Leidolf, 21, and eventually the "house mother" of the group, 43-year-old Stephanija Meyer.

However, lethal injection didn't provide enough excitement, and soon the self-styled "death pavilion" had invented their own murder method: while one held the victim's head and pinched their nose, another would pour water into the victim's mouth until they drowned in their bed. Since elderly patients frequently had fluid in their lungs, it was an unprovable crime.

They were caught after they were overheard bragging about their latest murder at a local tavern. In total, they confessed to 49 murders over six years, but may have been responsible for as many as 200.

Wagner was convicted of 15 murders, 17 attempts, and two counts of assault. She was sentenced to life in prison. Leidolf got life as well, on conviction of five murders, while the other two drew fifteen years for manslaughter and attempted murder charges.


Crime Library, Angels of Death -- The Female Nurses by Katherine Ramsland