A 27-year-old mother, her four young children, and a 40-year-old man who was the woman's partner but not the father of the children, were found dead inside an apartment in the Berlin district of Köpenick on Monday afternoon.
Post-mortem examinations overnight and through Tuesday morning indicated carbon monoxide poisoning, the state prosecutor's officer announced. Daily Bild reported that the gas had leaked out of a defective hot water boiler.
Despite speculation on Tuesday morning of a possible murder or murder-suicide, the prosecutor's office said that there were no immediate signs that the poisoning was anything but an accident. Further investigation was needed to determine how the leak had happened, the office said.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas that is highly toxic to humans in significant quantities. It can be produced by old-fashioned heating systems.
Firemen discovered the bodies after breaking down the front door. They were called by an acquaintance of the family. The woman was the mother of the four children – aged just one, four, five and seven respectively –and the man was her partner though not the children's father, daily Berliner Morgenpost reported.
The children's father had been informed of the deaths, a police spokesman told the paper Monday night.