German authorities suspect that a man who may have killed his wife and three young children before taking his own life had forged a coronavirus vaccination certificate and feared that his children would be taken away after his alleged offense was uncovered.
Police found the bodies of the man and his wife, who were both 40, along with their children ages 4, 8 and 10, at their home in the Berlin suburbs on Saturday. Neighbors reportedly called emergency services after seeing the lifeless bodies in the house.
The deaths are still under investigation, and police are awaiting autopsy results to determine the exact timing of the incidents, according to German media. Preliminary investigations indicate the man died by suicide, and investigators believe he is responsible for the other deaths, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency reported, citing police and the public prosecutor’s office. All five had gunshot wounds.
On Tuesday, a local prosecutor told Reuters that investigators had found what appeared to be a farewell letter, in which the suspect allegedly admitted to faking a vaccination certificate for his wife. Gernot Bantleon, the attorney, said the counterfeit had been spotted and that the couple appeared to fear arrest and other consequences.
The man had no police record and the family was not previously known to welfare officials, DPA reported. In Germany, forensic psychiatrists usually help investigate cases where a farewell note suggests a motive, a Berlin-based psychiatrist told the news agency.
The gruesome incident comes as German officials are tightening restrictions to stem another wave of coronavirus infections. Authorities last week agreed to ban unvaccinated people from some stores, as well as cultural and recreational venues, and are planning to make vaccinations mandatory for some jobs.
Legislators also have introduced tougher penalties for falsifying vaccination certificates, making it a criminal offense punishable with a fine or jail term of up to one year, DPA reported. Previously, forging certificates was a legal gray area.
About 69 percent of the German population is fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The country reported a seven-day rolling average of some 52,000 new infections on Monday.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.