German Man Poisoned by Co-Worker Dies After Four Years in Coma

A 26-year-old man died four years after slow, deliberate poisoning by a coworker left him comatose.

The news was confirmed by a court in the German city of Bielefeld on Thursday, German media outlets report.

The victim was just one of several people thought to have been targeted by a 57-year-old machinist known to the media as Klaus O, who has already been convicted of attempted murder.

Klaus O's modus operandi involved sprinkling lead acetate and mercury powder on colleagues' sandwiches at the ARI Armaturena metal fittings company in Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock in North Rhine-Westphalia, north-west Germany.

The poisoning attempts may go back years. He was only caught after a coworker noticed white powder on his lunch and footage from surveillance cameras subsequently installed in the workplace filmed Klaus O surreptitiously adding substances on staff's food and drink.

Tests then confirmed that the substances he was dusting on coworkers lunchtime sandwiches were lead acetate and mercury, toxic chemicals that can cause organ damage and death if consumed in too-high doses.

Searches of his house uncovered stocks of mercury, lead and cadmium—a highly toxic metal used in batteries, pigments and nuclear reactors among other things.

A trial followed and the courts found Klaus O guilty. He was given life imprisonment in March 2019, a result he is currently appealing. According to the judge's rulings, he is ineligible for a reduced sentence because he is considered to be a "danger to the general public."

"In the beginning we thought it was a misconceived prank between co-workers, and not a murder attempt," said Tilo Blechinger, the manager at ARI Armaturen, Newsweek reported in 2018. He described Klaus O as someone who was "conspicuously inconspicuous."

The repeated poisoning left another person in a coma and two more have developed severe kidney damage, but law enforcement believe many more people may have been affected.

A homicide team is currently investigating a string of deaths linked to the metal fittings company since 2000. Authorities say Klaus O could be responsible for as many as 21 murders.

The suspect remained silent during his trial and a motive for the crime has not been found.

According to the BBC, a psychologist said Klaus O "came across like a researcher who was trying to see how different substances affected rabbits."

In light of the news that one of Klaus O's victims has now died, state prosecutor Viet Walter said a new trial could begin under the order of Germany's Supreme Court, the BBC reports, citing Bild magazine.

Newsweek has contacted North Rhine-Westphalia courts for comment.

Man in Coma
A German man has died after four years in a coma, triggered by poisoning by a colleague. gorodenkoff/iStock