German authorities have made the astonishing step of investigating 21 suspicious deaths after the arrest of a man who allegedly tried poisoning his colleague’s lunch.

Police in Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock, near Bielefeld, recently arrested a 56-year-old man after his coworker reported the discovery of a suspicious powder on his sandwich to his managers.

CCTV footage taken inside the ARI Armaturen company showed the man opening the alleged target’s lunch box and pouring the powder on his food, police say.

It wasn’t just salt, either: tests of the substance revealed it to be lead acetate, a compound known to cause significant organ damage if ingested.

ARI Armaturen manager Tilo Blechinger said they initially believed the powder was placed on the sandwich as a prank, not as a genuine attempt to inflict harm.

A small bottle of a similar powder was found on the suspect when he was arrested, police say. A subsequent search of his home revealed the presence of other dangerous metals, including mercury and lead.

The shocking discovery lead investigators to investigate other concerning incidents linked to the company in recent years.

Since 2000, 21 former employees of the company died of heart attacks or cancer shortly before their retirement from ARI Armaturen. In addition to those deaths, two others remain in a coma, and another requires dialysis.

In a statement, German police said the incidence of severe illnesses among staff at the company was “strikingly high”, and that experts had ruled heavy metal poisoning may have contributed to those deaths.

A fifteen-person homicide team is reportedly contemplating the exhumation of those bodies in relation to the investigation.

The suspect, who has not been named, has not cooperated with police during their enquiries.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, let one thing be clear: do not fuck with anyone else’s lunch. Ever.

Source: The Independent
Image: The Washington Post / Getty Images