Ivo Poppe
Roman Catholic deacon and former nurse, Ivo Poppe, is pictured during the jury constitution before the Assize Court of West Flanders province, in Brugge Getty

A Belgium Catholic deacon accused of murdering several members of his family, including his own mother, by injecting air into their veins isdue to stand trial.

Former nurse Ivo Poppe, 61, dubbed the "Deacon of death" by Belgium media, is accused of killing at least 10 elderly people by injecting them with air and causing a fatal embolism.

He was arrested in 2014 after he allegedly confessed to his psychiatrist he had"euthanied" dozens of people while working as a nurse at a clinic in Menen before later being ordained in a pastoral role.

He is also accused of making two further confessions claiming he was acting "out of compassion" by ending the lives of terminally ill people. He later retracted these statements and pleaded not guilty to murder.

Doctors have confirmed that Poppe's mother was suffering from depression at the time of her death, but said she gave no indication that she wanted to be euthanised.

As well allegedly killing his mother in 2011, Poppe is also formally accused of murdering two great-uncles and his father-in-law, as well as several other victims.

It is feared he could have many more victims, with persecutors saying there could be at least 50 more people who died in suspicions circumstances during the time Poppe was at the clinic.

His defence team downplayed the suggestions, describing the deaths as a mere coincidence.

The trial in Bruges, which is expected to last two weeks, will hear from around 80 witnesses, relatives, psychiatrists and officials from the diocese.

If found guilty, Poppe would be considered the worst serial killer in Belgian's history.