SCHLOSS HULTE-STUKENBROCK, Germany — Authorities in Germany are investigating whether a man who was caught slipping poison into a co-worker’s food may be responsible for the deaths of 21 colleagues over the past two decades.
A 56-year-old worker at metal fittings plant ARI Armaturen in northwest Germany, was arrested in May after a coworker noticed a mysterious white powder in his food, Deutsche Welle reported.
A review of company security footage showed the suspect putting the powder in the other man’s food. A search of the suspect’s home turned a stash of quicksilver, cadmium and lead hidden there.
“In the beginning we thought it was a misconceived prank between co-workers, and not a murder attempt,” said Tilo Blechinger, a manager at the factory.
But police began to look back further after the powder was determine to be lead acetate, a highly toxic and nearly tasteless substance that could cause serious organ damage.
Now investigators are looking back at as many as 21 deaths of workers at the plant dating back to 2000. In those cases, the cause of death was deemed to be cancer or heart attacks, both of which could be caused by heavy metal poisoning. Two others remain in comas and another has to undergo dialysis.
Police say they may consider exhuming the bodies and performing autopsies to determine if heavy metals could have been the cause.
The suspect has worked at the plant for 38 years.