Extortionist poisons supermarket food in a bid to make millions

Extortionist poisons supermarket food in a bid to make millions

A man slipped a potentially lethal poison into food, including baby food, on sale in some German supermarkets in an extortion scheme aimed at raising millions of euros, police said.

Key points:

  • Food is being poisoned at some German supermarkets
  • Police looking for man in his 50s, wearing glasses
  • Suspect believed to be seeking millions of Euros

According to police, the alleged perpetrator had alerted them by email after placing quantities of poison in products for sale in some southern German supermarkets earlier in September, and was threatening to do so nationwide and elsewhere in Europe unless given a pay-off of many millions.

"We are taking the threat very seriously," Uwe Stuermer, deputy chief of police in the southern lakeside city of Konstanz, told a news conference.

"There is no reason for panic or hysteria."

He warned consumers to be on the lookout for packaging that had been tampered with when buying their groceries.

Police told reporters they believed five jars of baby food had been poisoned and the suspect was an extreme extortionist.

"This is an exceptionally severe case of extortion and we have to assume we are dealing with a very ruthless extortionist who is prepared to kill," Mr Stuermer said.

Suspect caught on supermarket security footage

Police were looking for a suspect who could be seen in security video footage from one of the supermarkets in a town near Konstanz and appeared to be a man aged about 50. The footage was made public to help in the search.

Police said they had found some baby food spiked with ethylene glycol, a colourless, odourless liquid used in the manufacture of antifreeze, which can be deadly if consumed.

Authorities in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said they would intensify checks of food on sale, but warned that identifying contaminated items would be a challenge.

"The case is difficult because the blackmailer did not say which food will be targeted or what poison he will use," a consumer protection official said.

No cases of poisoning have been reported so far.