Berlin police hunt man spiking drinks at Christmas markets
Dec 10, 2011, 16:34 GMT
Berlin - Berlin police were Saturday hunting for a mystery man who has handed out presents at the city's famous Christmas markets: a spiked liquor that has so far caused seven people to become dizzy or pass out.
Police said Saturday a third case had been reported, after two other groups of shoppers fell ill after visiting the open-air markets.
All reported they were approached by a man aged about 45 with short brown hair and a pudgy face who offered them free bottles of schnapps.
Some tourists fly from Britain or even the United States to enjoy Germany's Christmas markets, where carols play as mulled wine, gingerbread and handicrafts are sold from decorated stalls.
A student, 26, and his girlfriend, 24, said the stranger claimed he was celebrating the birth of a daughter and asked them to drink a toast to her. Another couple had been deceived by the man Wednesday.
At a third city market, three young women who accepted the drink became violently ill later. Two of the seven fell unconscious and recovered in hospital. Police said they suspected a date-rape drug had been mixed into the schnapps.
Event managers in charge of the markets said they had their eyes open for the poisoner or were hiring extra security guards.
'Our security is set up so nothing can happen,' said Joseph Nieke, organizer of a market outside a city opera house where one attack occurred. 'We've also got medical teams in case something does happen.'
Christian Wagner, organizer of a market at the Gedaechtniskirche, another city landmark, where another attack took place, said, 'We're doing everything humanly possible about this. But with 2 million to 3 million visitors, you can't scrutinize every one.'