Thomas Schaefer, the finance minister of the German state of Hesse, apparently committed suicide after “deeply concerned” about how to deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus, state premier Volker Bouffier said on Sunday.
Schaefer, 54, was found dead near a railroad on Saturday. The Wiesbaden prosecution office said it believed he died of suicide.
“We are shocked, incredulous and above all we are immensely sad,” said Bouffier in a recorded note.
Police and prosecutors said that factors, including questioning the witnesses and their observations on the scene, led them to conclude that Schaefer killed himself.
Hesse is home to the German financial capital of Frankfurt, where major credit institutions such as Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are based. The European Central Bank is also located in Frankfurt.
Bouffier, visibly shaken, recalled that Schaefer, who was Hesse’s chief of finance for 10 years, worked “day and night” to help companies and workers manage the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Today we have to assume he was deeply concerned,” said Bouffier, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“It is precisely at this difficult time that we would need someone like him,” he added.
Popular and respected, Schaefer had long been advertised as a possible successor to Bouffier.
Like Bouffier, Schaefer belonged to Merkel’s center-right CDU party.
He leaves a wife and two children.