Benjamin Geen is a British repeat murderer and former nurse who was convicted of killing two of his own patients and committing grievous bodily harm against 15 others while working at Horton General Hospital in Banbury, Oxfordshire in 2003 and 2004.[2] Geen, who was believed to be motivated by his 'thrill-seeking' temperament, injected a number of patients with dangerous drugs in order to cause respiratory arrest so he could enjoy the 'thrill' of resuscitating them. He was apprehended after staff at the hospital noticed that it was always when he treated patients, most of whom only had minor injuries such as dislocated shoulders, that they inexplicably had respiratory failures. Upon his arrest, a syringe full of some of the drugs he used to attack patients was found on his person. When he saw officers approaching, he discharged the syringe contents into his jacket pocket in an attempt to hide the fact he had removed potentially lethal drugs from the hospital without authority. He was found guilty at trial in 2006 and sentenced to a minimum of 30 years imprisonment. All but one of the guilty verdicts against him were by unanimous jury decision.

Benjamin Geen
Born1980 (age 43–44)
England, United Kingdom
Other names'Ben Allitt' (reference to Beverley Allitt)
Parent(s)Erica and Mick Geen
Conviction(s)2 counts of murder, 15 counts of grievous bodily harm
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 30 years
Victims2–12 murder victims,[a] 15–24 victims of grievous bodily harm[b]
Span of crimes
December 2003 – February 2004
CountryUnited Kingdom
Date apprehended
9 February 2004
The Horton General Hospital in Banbury, during 2010. It opened in 1872.[1] It was expanded extensively in the 1950s and 1960s.[1]

Geen has maintained his innocence but his multiple appeals have failed. In 2009 the Court of Appeal observed that the evidence against him was overwhelming and rejected claims that statistics could show his conviction to be unsafe, agreeing that "the danger of approaching this particular case on the basis of academic statistical opinion, however distinguished, is [that it is] divorced from the actual facts". Three applications for appeal to the Criminal Case Review Commission, the independent body which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice, have also been rejected, most recently in 2020.

Background edit

Geen was known at Horton General Hospital as a nurse who always looked for action.[3] Colleagues noted that whenever patients unexpectedly fell ill Geen was around, leading to their nicknaming him 'Ben Allitt'.[3] This was a reference to the infamous serial killer nurse Beverley Allitt, who in 1991 had injected a number of patients with lethal substances to seek attention.[3] Geen was himself described as someone who wanted to be the centre of attention.[3] He had joined the army reserve and was said to want to "walk towards the action and not away from it".[3] Despite the fact that his post was in the minor injuries unit at the hospital, he would often leave his post without authority to work in the emergency department.[3] He was a self-acknowledged "thrill-seeker", and enjoyed the adrenaline rush of working in the casualty department on life or death cases.[4][3] He said that there was a 'jinx' on him and that things tended to go wrong when he was around.[3]

In the month in which his crimes began, Geen appeared in an edition of the Banbury Citizen.[5] Notably, this edition also featured an interview with actress Rachel Leskovac, who played a serial killer nurse in the medical drama Holby City.[5] This fictional character had murdered patients by secretly administering insulin and was eventually exposed as a murderer.[5] Nurses at Horton Hospital would later observe that there were notable similarities between this storyline and the crimes Geen was later found guilty of.[5]

Previous warnings about behaviour edit

Geen was described as "gung-ho" for ignoring instructions.[6] He had previously been warned by hospital managers for turning up at the emergency department without authority, and was instructed to stop drifting there from the minor injuries unit where he was posted.[3][4] He had also been reprimanded for wearing nurse's epaulettes while he was unqualified to do so.[6]

Crimes edit

Between December 2003 and February 2004, 18 patients treated in the hospital's accident and emergency department suffered respiratory arrests or depressions while Geen, a trainee nurse, was alone with each patient.[7][8][9] These patients had all been admitted with only minor complaints such as dislocated shoulders and other mostly non-life-threatening conditions, yet suddenly found themselves fighting for their lives when they were treated by Geen.[3][10] The respiratory arrests were unexplained since none of the patients' conditions should have caused a respiratory arrest to occur.[3] Two of those patients had died in January 2004: Anthony Bateman (age 65) and David Onley (age 75).[3][8]

Patient David Onley had been admitted to the hospital due to heart problems and complications with his diabetes.[3] As part of standard procedure an insulin drip was given to Onley, and his condition improved.[3] However, Geen then took over as day nurse and 35 minutes later the man suffered an unexplained respiratory arrest and struggled to breathe, causing him to inexplicably die.[3] Another man who suffered an unexplained respiratory arrest when treated by Geen, David Nelson, was found to have the drug midazolam in his system, despite its not having been prescribed by any of the medical staff.[3] When given incorrectly this drug can be very dangerous, and it can cause respiratory arrest.[4] Another of Geen's patients who had been admitted due to stomach pains was found to have midazolam and the muscle relaxant vecuronium in his system, with no one having prescribed him these drugs.[2] Vecuronium is a dangerous, protected drug which is used to paralyze patients during surgery.[11][12] In hospitals, drugs have to be formally prescribed to patients by staff with the authority to do so, and multiple medics have to check to make sure that the prescribed drug and dosage is right for the patient before it is administered to them.[12] This had not been done in the cases of these patients, and so the discovery of these potentially lethal drugs in their systems despite no staff member having prescribed them indicated that a renegade medic had intentionally poisoned the individuals.[12] Notably, the latter patient was fine both before and after Geen treated him, having been well enough to drive himself to the hospital and making a full recovery after his respiratory arrest as soon as doctors put him on a life support machine.[6]

A fit 22-year-old had also fallen into respiratory arrest for no apparent reason when treated by Geen, as well as a woman who only attended the hospital due to a stomach complaint.[3] Another patient who had been admitted after drinking a bottle of gin and painkillers stopped breathing after Geen gave him an anesthetic he did not need.[2] Another significant case was that of a 67-year-old woman who had been admitted to the minor injuries unit with only a dislocated shoulder.[3] As soon as nurse Geen attended the patient and said he would flush out her morphine drip, she fell unconscious and into a respiratory arrest.[3] Crucially, the woman was a former nurse herself, and was able to credibly describe in full what had happened and how Geen had been attending to her when she inexplicably fell ill.[3] There was no reason for the woman to fall into respiratory arrest from having a dislocated shoulder and this is a very unusual occurrence.[3] Geen was the first person on the scene and immediately knew what the issue was.[3]

Colleagues began to notice that it was always when Geen was on duty and attending patients that people were falling unexpectedly ill, and also noted that he always automatically knew why they were ill and what to do to remedy the situation.[3][4] There had been concerns about his behaviour, particularly as he knew what to do to rectify problems even before a doctor had arrived to make a diagnosis.[3] This indicated he in fact knew what the problem was as he had caused it in the first place.[3] Colleagues had nicknamed him "Ben Allitt" in reference to serial killer nurse Beverley Allitt; research shows that medical workers who are given such nicknames by others are often later found to have harmed patients.[13] Several testified that Geen looked "elated" as his patients went into respiratory arrest and even "boasted" to a doctor: "There is always a resuscitation when I'm on duty."[2]

Investigation edit

An internal investigation (before the two deaths had occurred) initially identified 25 patients who had experienced sudden respiratory arrest or failure under Geen's care, but nine were discounted before administrators alerted the police.[14] The Thames Valley Police conducted an investigation involving up to 40 officers and independent medical experts who advised the force.[8][3] Tests discovered that a number of the patients who had suffered respiratory arrests had been inexplicably given the drug midazolam.[3] It was discovered that Geen had injected patients with such unauthorised, lethal doses of drugs and this is what caused them to stop breathing.[2] Medical experts agreed with the conclusions the police had drawn, and agreed that these drugs would cause the same symptoms of respiratory arrest that patients had suffered when treated by Geen.[10]

Arrest and syringe discovery edit

Geen was arrested as he arrived at the hospital to work on 9 February 2004.[8][3] He had on his person a syringe with the potentially lethal muscle relaxant vecuronium inside, despite it being strictly forbidden for nurses to take syringes or such drugs out of the hospital.[3][2] The same muscle relaxant had been given to David Olney, one of the patients who had unexpectedly died on Geen's watch, and to other patients who had gone into respiratory arrest while treated by Geen.[3] As he saw the officers approaching, Geen discharged the contents of the syringe into the pocket of his jacket in an attempt to hide the fact he was taking this drug and syringe into the hospital that morning.[3][8] He refused to tell the officers what the drug was when they apprehended him, further raising suspicion.[4]

Geen claimed that he had accidentally taken the syringe home in a pocket of his scrubs after a chaotic day.[15] However, the syringe needle was also found to be inexplicably heavily worn and used a number of times, which is something that is not allowed in hospitals as syringes are disposed of after single use.[12][11] The jacket was tested and the pocket was found to not only contain vecuronium but also traces of midazolam, the drug which was known to have been illegally administered to some of Geen's patients and which had caused them to go into respiratory arrest.[3]

Geen was formally accused of two murders and of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent upon 16 patients.[9]

Trial edit

"It is clear that he wanted to be the centre of attention and in order to fuel this desire, brought some of his patients to the brink of death and coldly murdered two of them."

—Detective Superintendent Andy Taylor, who led the murder investigation, after Geen's trial in 2006.[2]

During his trial, Oxford Crown Court was told that Geen purposely used insulin, sedatives, and muscle relaxants[8] to trigger respiratory arrest or failure in patients because he enjoyed the 'thrill' of resuscitating them.[16] Both the prosecution and defence accepted that he was often around when things unexpectedly went wrong in the hospital.[3] One nurse testified how Geen appeared "elated" when one of the victims went into respiratory arrest, and said "oh no, here we go again" as the patient began to fight for breath despite being in a good condition minutes earlier.[17] Another testified how she had been treating the patient earlier in the morning when he was in a good condition, but then discovered he had died shortly after she had handed over responsibility of his care to Geen.[17]

On 18 April 2006, a jury found Geen guilty of the two murder charges and of intentionally inflicting grievous bodily harm on 15 patients.[18] On 9 May 2006 Geen, then 25 years old,[16] was given 17 life sentences with the recommendation that he spend at least 30 years in prison before being considered for parole.[19] In court, Geen maintained his innocence and vowed to appeal his conviction.[16] All but one of the guilty verdicts were unanimous.[20]

Criminologist and detective Dr. Graham Hill concluded that Geen had hero syndrome.[3] This is when individuals want to be seen as a hero, sometimes causing them to create devastating situations so that they can then be seen to 'save the day'.[3]

Subsequent events edit

Colin Sutton, the British detective who led the investigations into serial killer Levi Bellfield and Delroy Grant, has publicly spoken out in support of the conviction.[12]

Fate of victims edit

A patient who fell into a coma for six days after being treated by Geen, John Thorburn, later died in 2009.[15] His son Richard would state to The Times in December 2014 that his father had never fully recovered from Geen's attack and this led to his subsequent death.[15]

Failed appeals edit

Geen's case was reviewed by lawyers and volunteers from the London Innocence Project. Geen's barrister, Michael Powers QC, has stated that "there was a major miscarriage of justice."[21] Mark McDonald, founder and chair of the London Innocence Project, has stated that he believes the case against Geen was manufactured to fit the circumstances.[22] Geen's family believes he is the victim of a "witch-hunt" by officials seeking to avoid mistakes made in the case of Dr. Harold Shipman.[23][24]

A first appeal failed in November 2009, when the Court of Appeal rejected his defence.[21] The court observed that the evidence against him was overwhelming[25] and concluded that any attempt to use statistical evidence to demonstrate Geen's innocence was flawed, declaring:

"There was in any event a wealth of material pointing to the applicant's guilt from which the jury would have drawn their own safe and proper inferences. Mr Price [prosecution KC] argued the danger of approaching this particular case on the basis of academic statistical opinion, however distinguished, is divorced from the actual facts. We agree. That the jury gave consideration to the individual cases rather than any pattern alone is evidenced by the acquittal of the count in relation to Mr Zinram, the fact that there was a majority verdict on another count, and the fact that they were in retirement for just under 28 hours."[20]

Richard Thorburn, son of Geen victim John Thorburn, publicly insisted in 2014 that Geen had been rightfully convicted.[15]

Geen's subsequent applications for appeal to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the public body that investigates alleged miscarriages of justice, have all been rejected. For his first application his defence team again recruited mathematical experts who stated that a statistical cluster of respiratory arrests was not unusual, but the miscarriage of justice watchdog was likewise unconvinced and rejected his application.[26] Applications to the CCRC were rejected in both 2013 and 2015.[25] The CCRC noted that, besides the statistics, there was other compelling evidence indicating Geen's guilt, such as the syringe full of drugs found in his pocket which he had tried to hide and the fact that all of the patients had rapidly declined while under his personal care.[15] Statistics had actually only made up a minor part of the evidence against Geen, and his conviction had mainly been based on the direct evidence against him that the CCRC had taken note of when turning down the application, such as the murder weapon found in his pocket full of the drugs used in the attacks.[12] The commission was then forced to reconsider its 2015 decision in the wake of a legal challenge, but in July 2020 the CCRC again announced that they saw no reason to refer Geen's case to the Court of Appeal and rejected his application.[26] In total his appeals have been denied on four occasions.

In a 2017 episode of the CBS Reality programme The Jury Room, in which 12 members of the public were asked to act as a 'jury' and review the evidence against Geen, the 'jury' unanimously concluded that Geen was guilty and not a victim of a miscarriage of justice.[12] High-profile detective Colin Sutton, best known for leading the Metropolitan Police investigations into Levi Bellfield and Delroy Grant, has also publicly stated that Geen is likely guilty, highlighting that his defence team's argument that statistical clusters of respiratory arrests are not uncommon does not explain why all the arrests happened while nurse Geen was on duty tending to the patients.[12] He has also pointed to the fact that there was a large amount of other evidence against him which the statistics could not account for.[12]

In popular culture edit

Geen's case has been the subject of multiple television programmes:

  • A series 1 episode of the series Nurses Who Kill aired in 2016 which focused on Geen's crimes.[3]
  • An episode of the CBS Reality programme The Jury Room focused on Geen's case in 2017. 12 members of the public were asked to act as a 'jury' and review the evidence against Geen. The 'jury' unanimously concluded that Geen was guilty.[12]
  • A series 4 episode of Crime+ Investigation's Killer Britain with Dermot Murnaghan documented Geen's crimes. It aired on 4 April 2022.[27][4]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "History of the Horton General Hospital - Oxford University Hospitals".
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Nurse guilty of killing patients". BBC. 18 April 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj Nurses Who Kill (19 October 2016). Benjamin Geen (TV documentary). Series 1, episode 2: FirstLookTV/DCD Rights.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Ben Geen". Killer Britain with Dermot Murnaghan. Series 4. Episode 7. 4 April 2022. Crime+ Investigation.
  5. ^ a b c d "A killer at the bedside". Banbury Guardian. 20 April 2006.
  6. ^ a b c Payne, Stewart (19 April 2006). "Guilty of murder: the nurse who got his kicks from life-or-death drama Patients taken to brink of death before attempts to revive them". The Telegraph.
  7. ^ Werner, Joel; Webb, Tiger (31 March 2016). "An unusual pattern: Is Benjamin Geen a killer or England's unluckiest man?". Radio National. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Boseley, Sarah (19 April 2006). "Trainee nurse killed two patients for thrills". The Guardian. London, England. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  9. ^ a b Smith, Richard (15 February 2006). "NURSE 'GAVE KILLER JABS' TO 18 PATIENTS". Mirror. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Accused nurse 'boasted at work'". BBC News. 15 February 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Nurse 'gave pair dangerous drugs'". BBC News. 14 February 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j The Jury Room (10 June 2017). Ben Geen (TV programme). Series 1, episode 5: FirstLookTV, CBS Reality.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  13. ^ Ramsland, Katherine (3 April 2012). "When Nurses Kill". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  14. ^ Ramsland, Katharine (2007). Inside the Minds of Healthcare Serial Killers: Why They Kill. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275994228.
  15. ^ a b c d e Devlin, Hannah (15 February 2015). "Statisticians question evidence used to convict nurse of murdering patients". The Guardian. London, England. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  16. ^ a b c Barkham, Patrick (11 May 2006). "17 life sentences for nurse who killed patients for thrills". The Guardian. London, England. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Nurse 'elated' over sick patient". BBC News. 23 February 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  18. ^ Payne, Stewart (18 April 2006). "Guilty of murder: the nurse who got his kicks from life-or-death drama". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  19. ^ "'Killing for thrills' nurse given 17 life terms". The Yorkshire Post. Yorkshire, England: Johnston Press. 10 May 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  20. ^ a b R v. Benjamin David Geen, 2009 EWCA Crim 200705540 D3 (England and Wales Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) 5 November 2009).
  21. ^ a b Holehouse, Matthew (28 February 2010). "Nurse fights murder conviction". The Independent. London, England: Independent Print Ltd. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  22. ^ "Ben Geen: thrill-seeking killer nurse or innocent victim of statistics? - The Justice Gap". The Justice Gap. 24 March 2016. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  23. ^ Williams, Amanda (3 March 2010). "Is Banbury nurse a killer or victim of coincidence?". Oxford Mail. Oxford, England: Newsquest. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  24. ^ Devlin, Hannah; O'Neill, Sean (15 December 2014). "Nurse 'was victim of Shipman hysteria'". The Times. London, England. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  25. ^ a b "Lawyers for Banbury nurse Benjamin Geen raise new evidence". Oxford Mail. 31 July 2023. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  26. ^ a b "Ben Geen: Statisticians back former nurse's in last chance to clear name". The Justice Gap. 10 April 2020. Retrieved 14 May 2022.
  27. ^ "Killer Britain with Dermot Murnaghan". Prime Video. Crime+ Investigation. Retrieved 14 May 2022.

Notes edit

  1. ^ He was convicted of two murders, but a patient later died after being attacked by Geen, and 9 other cases were originally investigated
  2. ^ He was convicted of 15 counts of GBH, but 9 other cases were originally investigated

External links edit