Deacon Ivo Poppe is accused of murdering at least 10 people while he was a nurse

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 euthanized” dozens of people. He later told an inquiry he acted “out of compassion” to end his patients’ suffering, however he has since retracted this statement.

Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002. Since then, Ministry of Health data shows euthanasia-related deaths are rising by 27 per cent annually.

The Church has raised concerns that the law is being abused to kill people without consent, and strongly criticised the office regulating the practice for being ineffective.

The Belgian Church’s Cathobel news agency published an article at the start of the year saying the Federal Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission failed to refer suspected legal abuses for investigation.

“It’s shocking that 15 years since its creation, this commission has not referred a single file to prosecutors or condemned a single doctor,” the report said.

“It is acting as judge and jury, and not fulfilling its role. It isn’t broadening application of the law, but violating it.”