AGENCIES, Germany: Thomas Schäfer the finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, has committed suicide apparently after becoming “deeply worried” over how to cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus, state premier Volker Bouffier said on Sunday.
Schäfer’s remains were found on a high-speed train track in the town of Hochheim between Frankfurt and Mainz, police confirmed on Saturday. The presence of a body on the tracks was first reported by witnesses to paramedics, who were unable to initially identify the remains due to the extent of the injuries.
Investigators said an investigation on the scene confirmed the identity of the man as Schäfer and that the death was likely a suicide. Police did not immediately release further details of the case.
The politician apparently left a note before taking his own life, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, citing sources close to the investigation. The note, according to the report, referenced Schäfer’s reasons for taking the step.
The Wiesbaden prosecution’s office said they believe he died by committing suicide.
“We are in shock, we are in disbelief and above all we are immensely sad,” Bouffier said in a recorded statement.
Hesse is home to Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, where major lenders like Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have their headquarters. The European Central Bank is also located in Frankfurt.
Schäfer was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). He had been active in Hessian state politics for more than two decades and was finance minister for almost 10 years.
A visibly shaken Bouffier recalled that Schaefer had been working “day and night” to help companies and workers deal with the economic impact of the pandemic.
Bouffier also said that Schäfer had been living under considerable worry and stress because of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“His main concern was whether he could manage to fulfill the huge expectations of the population, especially in terms of financial aid,” Bouffier said on Sunday. “For him, there was clearly no way out. He was disappointed and so he had to leave us. That has shocked us, has shocked me.”
“It’s precisely during this difficult time that we would have needed someone like him,” he added.
Popular and well-respected,Schäfer had long been touted as a possible successor to Bouffier. Schäfer leaves behind a wife and two children.