Poisoning cases on the Lichtwiese campus
Update 30 September, 2:00 pm
The public prosecutor's office in Darmstadt has taken over the investigation and initiated proceedings on the initial suspicion of attempted murder after seven people showed health problems, including symptoms of poisoning, after consuming various foods or drinks on Monday afternoon (23 August).
Update 30 September, 2:00 pm
Recommended precautions still apply
The police investigation continues as questioning large numbers of members of TU Darmstadt and analysing the wealth of leads take time. According to current assessment, no immediate danger to members of TU Darmstadt is apparent.
Even though we are gradually starting to cope emotionally with this rather shocking incident, we should continue to be careful and act responsibly during our everyday work and studies. Consequently, our recommended precautions still apply: Do not consume any beverages and/or food stored at tea kitchens or other locations of the university that are accessible to all and sundry.
Update 20 September, 2:00 pm
Police on site on Sunday evening – door had not been locked – no connection established to poisoning on 23 August
Yesterday evening (19 September 2021), a member of TU Darmstadt reported a suspected breaking and entering of Building L2|01; this lead referred to a door left slightly open. The police searched the building but did not find anything suspicious. According to the police, the door had most likely not been closed properly.
The police added that there does not seem to be any connection between the unlocked door and the incident on 23 August.
The Executive Board strongly requests that all members of TU Darmstadt carefully close and lock all doors to office rooms and laboratories when leaving them and to make sure that all side entries to buildings are kept fully closed at all times.
Update 3 September, 11:30 am
The Darmstadt Public Prosecutor's Office issued the following information to the press:
The murder (homicide) squad of initially 40 officers continues its investigation around the clock in full force analysing and assessing forensic evidence and possible investigative approaches now running in the four digits.
The murder squad has been increased to 50 officers due to the extensive investigation. Police investigators assembled from all over southern Hesse are now focussing meticulously and purposefully on this case exclusively. The murder squad is headed by an experienced CID officer (detective) specialised in “capital offences and/or homicides”. The investigation is conducted in cooperation with TU Darmstadt and is closely coordinated between the public prosecutors and the police.
So far, the victims and numerous other informants have been questioned, especially from the immediate vicinity of the university, including persons from the service sector such as security services, cleaning services etc. The number of persons questioned has now reached the mid double digits. Numerous other questionings are still in progress or expected.
The HLKA (Hessian State Office of Criminal Investigation) is working on the examination and/or analysis of numerous other secured objects and forensic evidence in addition to already partially concluded examinations of contaminated food and/or containers.
There is no strong suspicion against a specific person in this investigation as yet.
A motive has also not yet been established. Leads establishing a politically motivated criminal offence have also not yet been detected. In addition, no letters or similar claiming responsibility have become known afterwards.
The investigation hotline set up to gather possible leads from the public has not resulted in any “hot” leads yet.
The victims are research associates (WiMi) and members/affiliates of TU Darmstadt. Two of the victims showed a blue discolouration of the skin, one of them – as already known – had been in critical conditions for a time. The other victims suffered no additional symptoms apart from feeling unwell. A forensic medical examination of blood and urine samples taken from the victims indicates harmful substances in six cases that resulted most likely from consuming contaminated food. Conclusive results are still pending.
The substances detected by the HLKA via very complex and time-consuming tests on the containers and food secured cannot be disclosed to the public as yet for tactical reasons. This information is most likely known to the offender only. Disclosing it to the public may jeopardise the investigation and collection of sufficient evidence for conviction.
Given the currently available forensic evidence, the potential investigative approaches and hypotheses regarding the motive under discussion, this investigation will be more like a “marathon” than a “sprint”. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that additional investigative results can neither be expected nor will they be disclosed any time soon to not jeopardise the investigation. The Public Prosecutor's Office calls on your understanding that it cannot disclose specific investigative steps and measures in greater detail in order to protect the current investigation.
Update 1 September, 3:30 pm
The police are continuing their extensive investigation on campus by interviewing a large number of members and affiliates of TU Darmstadt. They are getting in touch with users of Building L2|01 of the Institute of Material Science in particular. The police are still investigating all possible leads.
Update 30 August, 2:00 pm
The intensive police investigation continues and follows various leads. Members and affiliates of TU Darmstadt are again asked to act judiciously and stay alert following the recommendations and information regarding the use of tea kitchens as published on 26 August on this webpage.
The public prosecutors will report on new information as it becomes available. This information will also be published in a timely fashion on the homepage of TU Darmstadt.
Update 27 August, 4:00 pm
The police and their emergency team are currently conducting their investigation on-site at the Lichtwiese campus. In their view, the situation is not one of high risk. Members of the TU are nevertheless still asked to remain cautious and vigilant and to follow the recommendations and guidelines listed on the TU website yesterday afternoon (Aug. 26th).
The public prosecutor's office will report on any new findings.
Update 26 August, 2:30 pm
The poisoning incident at the TU Darmstadt, which has affected seven TU members, has greatly disturbed the university community. We have summarized below several important questions and answers, recommendations and information about available support services.
1. What do we know about the course of events?
The public prosecutor's office of Darmstadt has taken over the investigation and has initiated proceedings given the initial suspicion of attempted murder. This action was taken after noon on Monday (23.08.), when seven people had health issues and potential symptoms of poisoning after consuming certain food items and/or beverages.
2. How are the victims doing?
Two colleagues have experienced serious health problems. They are now feeling better and have been able to leave hospital. Five other colleagues were examined simply as a precautionary measure and were treated on an outpatient basis.
3. Do we have any information about the perpetrator(s)?
The police and the public prosecutor's office are investigating all possible avenues.
4. The police wants to question me about the events – what should I be aware of?
Support the investigating authorities as far as you are able. If you need additional support, contact your supervisor or members of the crisis committee. You do not need university permission to give testimony. Please make sure that anyone who questions you as part of the police investigation shows some identification.
4.1. Who do I contact if I have any information about the crime?
Anyone who has observed anything suspicious on campus or noticed anything unusual can phone the police department with this information by calling 06151 / 969-42191 or by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
4.2. What should I do if the press wants to interview me?
You are not obliged to be available for such interviews. Of course, you are also not prohibited from doing so. Please note, however, that press representatives are not obliged to agree on the statement you make before it is published. Press relations are coordinated centrally by the TU Darmstadt Press Relations Office. If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Jörg Feuck ( presse@tu-…).
5. I don’t speak very much German – would interpreters be provided?
If necessary, both the police and the TU will provide support with interpreters who speak the language of the interviewee. Alternatively, you can also communicate in English.
6. What are the assurances that no such incidents will occur in the future?
According to the investigating authorities, there is no acute risk at the university. All TU employees should nevertheless take reasonable care in the workplace. As a precautionary measure, it is being recommended not to consume any beverages or food that are left unattended in kitchenettes or other rooms at the university.
7. Can I use the kitchenettes again?
The affected kitchenettes in building L2|01 have been cleaned and the food has been disposed of. As a purely precautionary measure, however, these areas have been locked and are not available for use (Update 2 September: The tea kitchenettes are open again). All other kitchenettes on TU Darmstadt campuses are available for regular use.
8. What should I be aware of when handling food?
As a precautionary measure, it is being recommended not to consume any beverages or food that is left unattended in kitchenettes or other rooms at the university.
8.1. Should I throw out food?
Disposing of food in all other TU Darmstadt kitchenettes is not currently necessary, according to the police.
8.2. How can I store food at my workplace – what safety precautions should I take?
As a precaution, only store food where you can keep an eye on it.
9. What should I bear in mind on campus in general?
You should move through your environment with your eyes open. Make sure to lock your office(s) and lab(s) when you leave and be sure the building is also locked.
10. A couple of my colleagues are very unsettled by the events, how should I help them? How do I point them in the direction of support services?
The TU Darmstadt Social and Conflict Counseling Service offers confidential one-on-one counseling sessions to all members of the university who are looking for support due to the suspected poisoning attack. The goal is to address this threatening situation and to deal with any accompanying fears or doubts. Contact: martina.merk@tu-…, 06151/16-26566
Members of the staff council (Personalrat) are also . (in German) available for counseling sessions
10.1. Are there ways I can help (including long-term help for those affected)?
Please be particularly understanding in this situation and support colleagues who have concerns or fears. Please refer to social and conflict counseling. (See question 10.)
10.2. I have a couple of ideas how to help – who should I contact?
TU members can contact TU Health Services ( gesundheit@tu-…) with their questions or suggestions by e-mail. Incoming e-mails will be processed immediately.
10.3. Who should I contact if I want to talk about personal matters?
The TU Darmstadt Social and Conflict Counseling Service offers confidential individual sessions for all members of the university who are looking for support due to the suspected poisoning attack. The goal is to address this threatening situation and to deal with any accompanying fears or doubts. Members of the staff council (Personalrat) are also . (in German) (See question 10.) available for counseling sessions
11. What steps is university management taking? Is there a crisis committee?
The crisis committee, which includes the President, the Chancellor and the Chief Communications Officer, is in continuous contact with the investigating authorities and supports the quickest possible clarification of the incident. It is supporting the victims of the attack in coordination with the departments concerned. It is serving as the coordination point for all internal and external communications.
Update 25 August, 3:00 pm
Police and public prosecutors are currently investigating all possible leads. According to the investigating authorities, there is no longer any acute risk of poisoning at the university. However, all members and affiliates of TU Darmstadt should remain careful and alert during their work at the university. In addition, we recommended not to consume any beverages and/or food stored at tea kitchens or other locations of the university for the time being, just to be on the safe side. Please make sure to carefully close and lock all exterior doors with limited access authorisation when entering or leaving these buildings. Please lock office and laboratory doors as well when leaving.
The police ask for your cooperation: Anyone who may have noticed something conspicuous or may have observed unusual activities on Campus, please contact the police using this phone number 06151 / 969-42191 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
offers confidential private counselling to all members of the university seeking support due to the suspected poisoning attempt, for instance on how best to handle this threatening situation including the fears and worries involved. Social Counselling & Conflict Management of TU Darmstadt
In the course of the investigation, the police will also interview members and affiliates of TU Darmstadt. They may call in persons they trust or interpreters; in addition, the Language Resource Centre of TU Darmstadt will assist them as necessary based on its comprehensive intercultural competencies.
Update 24 August, 4:00 pm
All seven poisoning victims are doing better. The last two affected TU members can also leave the clinic today. “We are very relieved about that,” said TU President Professor Tanja Brühl. She has meanwhile spoken on the phone with six of those affected.
Update 24 August, 11:00 am
In the course of the investigation, specialists of the Hessian State Criminal Police Office were able to detect substances, among others in food seized by the police at the crime scene, whose ingestion could have led to the symptoms experienced by the injured parties. The 40-member “Light” homicide squad was set up at the South Hesse police headquarters to investigate the crime. The investigation is currently in full swing and the police are doing everything possible to identify the perpetrator(s) as soon as possible.
According to the police, there is currently no longer any acute danger. The South Hesse Police Headquarters is in close contact with those responsible at Darmstadt Technical University. In this context, however, the officers appeal to the personal responsibility of each individual and urgently advise to only consume food that is directly on one's person and that has been kept under supervision at all times.
So far, no other victims with symptoms or signs of poisoning have reported to the investigators. Anyone who has made suspicious observations or can provide relevant information is asked to call the police tip line set up for this purpose at 06151 / 969-42191.
Update 23 August, 8:00 pm
According to the current status, the police have no indications that further buildings of the Technical University are affected.
As a precaution, officers will also search the other buildings on the Lichtwiese campus for possible contaminated products in the course of the evening. According to the current state of investigation, several milk packages and water containers were contaminated with a harmful substance between Friday and Monday (20.8.-23.8.). The acrid smell of the affected liquids is said to be particularly noticeable. The exact nature of the harmful substance is still being investigated. The police and the Executive Board of the Technical University advise not to consume any food and drinks that were stored in the premises during the time of the incident!
Update 6:00 pm
Several emergency services, the fire brigade and the police are currently on the scene. The entire building “L 2.01” has been evacuated and the immediate area there has been completely blocked off. At present, the criminal investigation department is searching the premises and seizing samples of the food and drinks in order to locate the places of origin that caused the symptoms of poisoning. In addition, the police are contacting the persons in the affected department and are also interviewing witnesses at the scene.
All persons who have eaten or drunk something in the building on site (Campus Lichtwiese, Alarich-Weiss-Straße) today or who feel unwell or have bluish discolouration of the extremities should seek medical treatment immediately!
In case of discolouration, do not move and call an ambulance immediately.
The police are currently investigating and taking action. Any eyewitnesses who observed anything unusual in or around the building today can call the police headquarters in Southern Hesse: Call 06151 96942191.
Concerned TU members can email their questions to the Health Team (gesundheit@tu-…). Incoming mails will be processed immediately.
This message is currently also being distributed via HessenWarn, the warning and information app of the State of Hesse.