German police investigate 21 deaths linked to poisoned sandwiches

29 Juin, 2018, 04:25 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • German man suspected in 21 poisoning deaths

German police are reviewing the suspicious deaths of 21 engineering workers - dating back almost two decades - after one of their co-workers was allegedly caught on camera trying to poison a colleague's lunch.

Bielefeld police said the powder contained lead acetate "in amounts that would have been sufficient to cause serious organ damage", and a search of the suspect's home uncovered further additional unsafe substances.

A 56-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder at a company in the northwestern town of Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock, said the police in nearby Bielefeld, where the man lives.

A spokeswoman for the Poison Information Center at the University of Bonn told Bild it was a "very unusual case", and that lead poisoning is hard to detect due to symptoms that might be caused by other conditions.

The intended victim detected the unusual powder, later found to be lead acetate, and informed authorities, a step which eventually led to the suspect's arrest.

Following the latest revelations, two of the suspect's co-workers-one of which is currently in a coma while the other is receiving dialysis treatment-are now assumed to have also been poisoned with heavy metals.

Tilo Blechinger, manager of the metal fittings firm, ARI Armaturen, initially believed the alleged sprinkling of a substance on the co-worker's food was a joke.

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Further investigation uncovered 21 cases, dating back to 2000, of employees at the same company who had died of heart attacks or cancer shortly before retiring.

"In the beginning, we thought it was a misconceived prank between co-workers, and not a murder attempt", Blechinger told DPA, a German news agency. "According to the experts, the cause of such illnesses can be heavy metal poisoning", a police statement read.

The suspect has been working at the metal factory for 38 years.

Investigators will question relatives of those workers who died and the doctors who treated them.

Police said they know of no possible motive.

A small bottle of "powdery substance" was found in the suspect's bag after he was taken into custody, police said.

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