Police say they've cracked the case of the supermarket extortionist who threatened to poison Germany's baby food supply if his demands were not met. According to officers, the 53-year-old man planned and carried out his scheme "alone."
On Saturday, the main suspect told the custodial judge that he had not poisoned any other products than the ones already known, authorities in the southern city of Konstanz said. Still, police told consumers to check the safety seals on products they buy and report suspected tampering to the authorities.
Earlier this week, police released a surveillance camera image of the man. They received 650 tips in response. The man was detained near Tübingen, south of Stuttgart, on Friday evening, after members of the public tipped off investigators.
Prosecutor Alexander Boger said initial findings showed that the man had a prior criminal record. He said he could not give further examples, however, because he didn't have the suspect's record.
Boger said the man could face five to 15 years in prison if found guilty of extortion. He did not rule tacking on charges of attempted murder, as well.
A wretched plan
Earlier this month, police received an emailed threat to distribute 20 types of poisoned foodstuffs into supermarkets across Germany and abroad if they did not pay a sum believed to top €10 million ($12 million). In mid-September authorities discovered five jars of baby food laced with ethylene glycol — an odorless, colorless, sweet-tasting compound used in antifreeze — in a supermarket in Friedrichshafen, near Konstanz. A man was seen on camera placing the products on the shelf.
On Saturday, police said they found the rest of the poison used to taint the five baby food bottles at the man's house. He had enough to poison five more bottles. The substance can cause kidney failure, brain damage and death.
Employees of a drugstore in Peine, about 500 kilometers (320 miles) north of Friedrichshafen in the state of Lower Saxony, said they saw a man similar to the presumed suspect. He left the store before they could stop him.
mkg/jlw (AFP, dpa)