A Catholic deacon has gone on trial in Belgium accused of killing at least 10 people, including his own mother.

Deacon Ivo Poppe, 61, is a former nurse who is suspected of injecting air into some of his victims’ veins to kill them.

The married father of three, dubbed the “deacon of death” by Belgian media, is accused of murdering his mother, father-in-law, two other relatives and various patients during his three decades in the nursing profession.

Although he is formally charged with 10 murders, a criminal inquiry has established a list of 50 suspicious deaths during his time at a clinic in the town of Menen.

If convicted, Poppe would be one of the worst serial killers in Belgian history.

Poppe was arrested in 2014 after telling a psychiatrist he “actively euthanised” dozens of people. He told an inquiry he acted “out of compassion” to end suffering, but he has since retracted this statement.

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