Mon, Oct 02, 2017 - Page 5 News List

German man poisons baby food in blackmail plot

‘MENTALLY DISTURBED’:Police removed all poisoned food from a supermarket and prosecutors said the man could face life in prison if charged with attempted murder

AFP, FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany

A 53-year-old German man on Saturday admitted to poisoning baby food and threatening to contaminate other products in stores across Europe, as part of a presumed blackmail plot, authorities said.

The arrest on Friday of the suspect — described as “mentally disturbed” — came after German police alerted the public earlier in the week, saying a blackmailer was demanding millions of euros in cash.

Authorities and companies received an e-mail last month threatening to poison unspecified food at German retailers inside the country and beyond unless more than 10 million euros (US$11.8 million) was paid by Saturday.

To press the demand, the suspect allegedly poisoned five baby food products and alerted police to the store where they were placed in the southern city of Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance.

Following information received from the public, police detained the man near Tubingen, about two hours’ drive away from the store.

“The presumed blackmailer has admitted the accusations ... during his appearance before the Ravensburg court” and said he did not put any other poisoned products in supermarkets, German authorities said.

At a news conference earlier in the day, police and prosecutors said the man had refused to shed light on his motives, but that evidence implicating him was discovered at his home.

DNA found on the baby food jars and pictures taken with a supermarket surveillance camera also pointed to the suspect, who was not identified due to German privacy rules, prosecutors said.

Local deputy chief of police Uwe Stuermer described the man as “eccentric” and mentally disturbed.

He was arrested after authorities released surveillance footage of the man, whom they earlier described as aged 55, wearing glasses and a white cap.

The baby food — which had been laced with ethylene glycol, a chemical found in anti-freeze and brake fluid — was found and removed.

However, a nationwide appeal for information was launched on the suspect and a warning issued about the potential for other food contamination.

If convicted, the man could face between five and 15 years in prison for extortion under threat of force.

However, prosecutors said they may charge him with attempted homicide, which could entail a life sentence.

Additional reporting by AP

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