German prosecutors on Tuesday opened an investigation into an attempted murder after poisoning at a university left a student in critical condition and six others in need of medical attention.
The victims of the Technical University of Darmstadt, half an hour by train from Frankfurt, had consumed food or drink to which a “harmful substance” had been introduced.
Police said packages of milk and water containers were among items spiked over the weekend with the chemical, which they described as having a noticeable “pungent odor”.
Anyone who is unwell or whose “extremities turn blue” should see a doctor immediately, police said, citing one of the poison’s potential effects.
Police said they called a team of 40 people to investigate the incident and work “at full speed” to identify a culprit.
The affected building, which is part of the Materials and Geosciences Department, was cordoned off and all foodstuffs on site were taken away for investigation.
Overnight, forces conducted further searches across the campus but found no “relevant objects.”
Tuesday, there was “no acute danger”, according to the authorities.
A 30-year-old student was in critical condition on Monday, police said. No update has yet been provided.
– ‘Shocked’ –
In a statement, the university called the events a “poisonous attack.”
“We are shocked at the apparent breach that has occurred,” University president Tanja Bruehl said in a statement.
“My sympathy goes out to those affected, who will receive full medical help,” she said.
State Attorney Robert Hartmann told the Bild newspaper: “We take this very seriously. We cannot rule out that we are dealing with an attempted murder here. “
Angela Dorn, Minister of Higher Education of the Land of Hesse, where Darmstadt is located, offered her “full support” to the victims.
“Together with the university and investigators, we now need to clarify the situation as quickly as possible,” Dorn said.
Germany has been shocked by several poisonings in recent years.
In December 2019, five newborn babies were poisoned with morphine, but a nurse who was initially arrested for the crime was later released.
The babies, aged one day to five weeks at the time, all survived the poisoning attempt. No one has been charged in this case.
A German court in 2019 sentenced Klaus O. to life in prison for sprinkling his colleagues’ sandwiches with a toxic powder containing compounds of lead, mercury and cadmium.
He was caught red-handed in 2018 while attempting to poison other colleagues.
© 2021 AFP