German police have detained a woman they believe was responsible for contaminating food and drinks that poisoned people at a university this past year.
The 32-year-old woman from Mainz has been placed in a psychiatric hospital, according to the public prosecutor’s office in Darmstadt and police in southern Hesse. She has not yet responded to any of the accusations.
Seven people reported health problems after consuming various foods or drinks in August 2021 at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Some of them were taken to hospitals with symptoms of intoxication and blueish discoloration of the extremities. The health of a 30-year-old student was described as critical at the time.
The university later revealed that all seven employees and staff members affected were feeling better and had left hospitals. An examination of blood and urine samples taken from victims indicated harmful substances in six cases that likely resulted from contaminated food.
University President Tanja Brühl said there was relief that the case had been solved.
“We were all shocked by the poisoning cases, which put the health of members of the university in serious danger. We are glad that those affected have recovered. We would like to thank all TU members for the extensive support of the police investigations and the prudent behavior in the weeks after the crime,” she said.
Solving the puzzle
Investigators said the woman came to their attention at an early stage of the probe that involved speaking to more than 1,000 witnesses. They found she had probably been in the building on the day of the incident.
At the time, emergency services evacuated the site and blocked the immediate area. They inspected other buildings on the campus but didn’t find any more contaminated items.
The Department of Materials Science student who has been detained had been enrolled since late 2017 and is thought to have mixed various items such as water containers with harmful substances. It has not been made public what agent caused the poisoning or how the woman got hold of it.
Those affected had been mentioned in written records kept by the accused. Police said this indicates “she felt persecuted” by these people.
Officers said she had been placed in a psychiatric hospital because there is a suspicion “that the accused is not criminally responsible due to a mental illness”.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)