Seven German student have fallen ill after consuming a variety of food and drink from kitchens at Darmstadt Technical University in Germany, in what police suspect may have been an attempted poisoning.
Many German students and members of staff and academic board experienced nausea and some watched their arms or legs turn blue after using kitchen facilities and a drinks machine at the university’s Institute of Materials Science on Monday, Hesse state police reported.
Six people were treated in Darmstadt hospital, near Frankfurt, while a 30 year old student was temporarily in a life-threatening condition but was stabilised by doctors on Monday evening.
A homicide squad with 40 detectives, called Licht (“light”), has been set up to investigate the case, police and the state prosecutors in Darmstadt announced on Tuesday.
“Investigations are running at high speed and police are doing everything to identify the culprit,” they said.
They suspect several freely accessible milk and water bottles at three separate small kitchens on the university’s Lichtwiese campus were contaminated over the weekend.
Citing an anonymous investigator, the Bild newspaper said on Tuesday police were ruling out that the poison could have been left behind by accident.
Students were urged to only consume food or drink they had “carried themselves or stored under supervision”. Those who drank from bottles bought on the campus and were feeling unwell were advised to immediately contact a doctor.
Police said the contamination was easily identifiable due to the acrid smell emitted by the suspected poison. Investigators said they had identified the substance after analysing samples in police labs overnight, but could not name it while the search for the culprit was ongoing.
“A substance has been identified that can be harmful to one’s health, and even deadly,” said a senior public prosecutor, Robert Hartmann, at a press conference on Tuesday.
“We are shocked by the apparent crime that has been committed at our university,” said the university president, Tanja Brühl, on Tuesday morning.
Angela Dorn-Rancke, the science minister for the state of Hesse, which includes Darmstadt, said: “I wish the affected all the best, a quick recovery and can assure them my full support.
“Together with the university and investigators, we now need to clarify the situation as quickly as possible.”