The son of the 90-year-old "Frankfurt beer king" has accused his 28-year-old stepmother, a Belgian model of Ethiopian origin, of killing his father to pocket the family fortune. Bruno H Schubert, who gained his wealth from selling his family's Henninger brewery more than thirty years ago, caused a scandal in Frankfurt high society in August 2009 when he married Meharit Kifle, who was 63 years his junior and had a four-year-old son from another relationship.
His poodle, Sissy, was an official witness at a garish marriage that attracted tabloid headlines and which took place only five months after the death of Ingeborg, his first wife of 68 years. Schubert, who was known in Germany as an environmental philanthropist, died on October 17 last year of what was apparently no more than old age. But following a legal dispute over his will, Hanns Peter Nerger, Schubert's illegitimate son from an extramarital affair in the 1940s, has accused Miss Kifle of withholding liquids from his father, causing his death by dehydration. "If my suspicions prove to be wrong, I can live with it," Mr Nerger told the Frankfurter Neue Presse newspaper. "Should I be right, I hope that the culprits get their punishment."
Frankfurt's prosecutors are investigating the claims and staff at the hospital where Schubert died have been interviewed. Also under investigation is an accusation that Miss Kifle was "seen dancing in a disco a few days after her husband died". "We are carrying out a death investigation process," said Hubert Harth, Frankfurt's chief public prosecutor.
Miss Kifle and her lawyer, Hubert Kestler, have strenuously denied the accusations. Schubert is said to have met his young wife in a restaurant five years ago at a gala lunch he was hosting. He had a reputation as a "beer baron" playboy who hosted extravagant Champagne parties at his villa in Berchtesgaden, in the Bavarian Alps.
Schubert described Miss Kifle as "an exceptional woman", and proposed after his first wife died. He quickly changed his will to leave his undisclosed "six-figure" fortune to his new bride. "I am so in love, she is a wonderful person. It is a real love match," Schubert said on their wedding day. "It's a shame I'm so old."
Mr Nerger, 64, has mounted a legal challenge to the changes to his father's will that removed the fortune from an environmental foundation that bore Schubert's name and handed it to his young wife. Questioning his father's sanity, Mr Nerger has pointed to his growing isolation, the sacking of family retainers and the appointment of Miss Kifle and Mr Kestler to the board of the Bruno H Schubert Foundation.
The family property in Berchtesgaden, which should have gone to the foundation after his death, was sold to a new owner in Thailand, reportedly for pounds 8.6?million, but Mr Nerger has claimed there is "no trace of the money". "After their marriage, Bruno suddenly became less accessible. He invited friends less often. He also changed his will," he said.