Prosecutors are asking a court in Germany to sentence a 57-year-old man to life in prison for allegedly poisoning co-workers' sandwiches over several years.
German news agency dpa reported Wednesday that prosecutors are seeking the long sentence for attempted murder because the alleged victims nearly died. Two have serious kidney damage and a third is in a coma with irreparable brain damage.
The defendant, whose name hasn't been released, is accused of lacing colleagues' lunches with substances including lead acetate and mercury between 2015 and 2018.
He was arrested in May after surveillance video showed him putting a suspicious powder on a colleague's sandwich. Prosecutors believe he was motivated by wanting to watch their physical deterioration.
The Bielefeld regional court is expected to deliver its verdict on March 7.
Authorities launched a probe last year into a string of 21 deaths over nearly two decades after the man's arrest.
The 56-year-old man, named only as Klaus O, was detained back in May 2018 after surveillance video showed him opening a colleague's lunchbox and putting a suspicious powder inside, German tabloid Bild reported.
"In the beginning we thought it was a misconceived prank between co-workers, and not a murder attempt," Tilo Blechinger, the manager for the metal fittings manufacturer told the DPA news agency.
Bielefeld police said the powder contained lead acetate "in amounts that would have been sufficient to cause serious organ damage," and a search of the suspect's home uncovered further additional dangerous substances.
The 21 deaths since 2000, which were all employees at the company the man worked for, included a "remarkably high number of heart attacks and cancers," according to police.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.