A German man has been sentenced to life in prison, after he was found guilty of attempting to poison his colleagues’ lunches. The man, identified only as “Klaus O”, was convicted in a court in the city of Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock, after prosecutors revealed that he had spent years lacing co-workers’ sandwiches with dangerous substances, including mercury, leaving two with serious kidney damage and one in a permanent vegetative state.
Reports in Germany indicate that the 57-year-old, who cannot be identified due to German privacy laws, was caught after a fellow employee noticed a strange white powder on his lunch. An inspection of the office security camera subsequently revealed Klaus O covertly sprinkling an unknown substance onto the food.
Police, who were on the alert after it emerged that dozens of employees at the metal fittings company had fallen inexplicably ill over the last few years, immediately organised a search warrant for the mysterious man’s property. When they entered, authorities discovered what appeared to be a rudimentary chemistry laboratory. Further testing revealed a long list of highly volatile substances, including a chemical which judge Georg Zimmerman described as “more dangerous than all the combat agents used in World War Two.”
In the trial, it was revealed that two of Klaus O’s victims, 27 and 67 year-old men, had sustained significant liver damage, indicative of a combination of both cadmium and lead poisoning. The prosecution explained that the poisoning had left both with an increased risk of contracting cancer later in life. Another 23-year-old colleague sustained permanent brain damage after ingesting mercury, and is currently in a coma.
When it came to motive, investigators were initially at a loss to explain what was behind Klaus O’s crimes. Though he refused to speak throughout the course of the trial, detectives now believe that he was motivated by nothing more than a desire to see his colleagues’ physical deterioration. A psychologist, who gave testimony for the prosecution, revealed that Klaus O "came across like a researcher who was trying to see how different substances affected rabbits," according to a report by German news agency DPA.
Despite the horror of his crimes, police now believe Klaus O may well be guilty of a whole lot more than attempted lead poisoning. Detectives are currently looking into potentially suspicious circumstances around the death of 21 other employees who passed away whilst working at the metal fittings business, dating all the way back to 2000. If Klaus O is found to have been involved in any of these incidents, it may be that the case still has a few more twists and turns in store.
As he passed sentencing, the judge made it clear that he felt Klaus O remains a clear and present danger to the German public. He therefore had no hesitation in handing down the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Whether this helps the attempted murderer, who will be 72 if and when he is released, to reform remains to be seen.