Students in Darmstadt on high alert after campus drinks poisoned

Police in Hesse launched an investigation into "attempted murder" on Tuesday after at least seven people were poisoned upon drinking milk and water stored at the Technical University in Darmstadt over the weekend.

Students in Darmstadt on high alert after campus drinks poisoned
Emergency services at Darmstadt University on Monday. Photo: Alexander Rau/Keutz TV-News/dpa

On Tuesday morning officers were searching for further contaminated substances on the university’s Lichtwiese campus, where the poisonings had taken place.

Six of the affected people have been taken to hospital, according to police. A 30-year-old man’s life was in danger due to the severity of his symptoms and on Monday evening he remained in hospital in a critical situation.

All of the victims complained of nausea, while some noticed that the extremities of their limbs had turned blue.

“We are shocked by the apparent crime that occurred at our university,” the university’s president, Tanja Brühl, said on Tuesday.

Brühl added that police investigators had informed her that the victims are likely to have been victims of a poison attack. She promised to “make personal contact with them as soon as possible, if their condition allows it.”

Police suspect that several milk and water bottles on the campus were contaminated over the weekend. The affected bottles were all stored in a room that was freely accessible to people on the campus.

Police advise anyone who drank from bottles bought on the campus and who are experiencing nausea or have noticed a change in the colour of their fingers and feet to immediately contact a doctor. They say that the contamination is easily identifiable due to the sharp smell the poison emits.

“I wish the affected all the best, a quick recovery and can assure them my full support,” Angela Dorn, the science minister for the state of Hesse, which includes Darmstadt, said in a statement.

“Together with the university and investigators we now need to clarify the situation as quickly as possible,” Dorn said.

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.