Finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, Thomas Schaefer, committed suicide apparently after expressing “despair” over how to handle the economic fallout from the fast-spreading coronavirus, an official confirmed on Sunday.
Schaefer, 54, was found dead near a railway track at Hochheim, near Frankfurt on Saturday. The Wiesbaden prosecution’s office said they believe he died by suicide, Al Jazeera reported. “We are in shock, we are in disbelief and above all we are immensely sad,” State governor Volker Bouffier said in a recorded statement.
Police and prosecutors said factors, including the questioning of witnesses and their own observations at the scene, led them to conclude that Schaefer killed himself.
Hesse is home to Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, where major lenders such as Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have their headquarters. The European Central Bank is also located in Frankfurt.
A visibly shaken Bouffier recalled that Schaefer, who was Hesse’s finance chief for 10 years, had been working “day and night” to help companies and workers deal with the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Today we have to assume that he was deeply worried,” said Bouffier, who is also a close ally to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“It’s precisely during this difficult time that we would have needed someone like him,” he added.
Schaefer belonged to Merkel’s centre-right CDU party and is survived by his wife and two children.
The killer bug has so far infected over 60,000 people in Germany while nearly 600 have succumbed to the contagious infection.