Thomas Schaefer, the finance minister of the German state of Hesse, reportedly committed suicide on Saturday. The minister is allegedly said to have taken his own life over worries surrounding the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

The 54-year-old's mutilated body was found along the high-speed train line in the town of Hochheim, approximately 37 kilometers from Frankfurt, according to the local police. The Wiesbaden prosecution's office said it believed that he committed suicide.

Schaefer's body was found by passers-by, who alerted paramedics. However, identification of the remains was a challenge due to the grievous injuries. A suicide note is also said to have been found.

Finance minister for 10 years

Schaefer was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Having served as the finance minister of Hesse for nearly 10 years under its governor, Volker Bouffier, Schaefer had been active in state politics for over two decades. Hesse is where the country's economic capital Frankfurt is located.

Thomas Schafer
Thomas Schaefer Wikimedia Commons

Expressing his shock over Schaefer's demise, Bouffier said in a recorded statement: "We are in shock, we are in disbelief and, above all, we are immensely sad." The governor linked the minister's death to the coronavirus pandemic-driven crisis that Germany and several European countries are facing. "It's precisely during this difficult time that we would have needed someone like him," added Bouffier.

Economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Earlier this week, it was reported that the economic forecast for the European nation was a significant economic slowdown comparable to the global economic slowdown of 2006-07. Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz recently told journalists in Berlin: "We don't need to speculate; it's clear there will be a negative economic impact. Anyone could say that just by looking at the empty high streets."

The extent of the economic downturn due to the pandemic was discussed in a report by the German think tank, Ifo. According to the report, a partial shutdown of the economy could result in a loss of between 7.25 and 20.6 per cent of the country's GDP. "The crisis will also cause massive upheaval on the job market. This could put the situation at the high point of the financial crisis into the shadows, " said Clemens Fuest, president of Ifo, according to Deutsche Welle.

Germany is one of the worst-affected countries in Europe with over 58,000 confirmed cases and more than 450 casualties.

(With inputs from agencies)