A picture of stricken Michael Schumacher has been smuggled out of his home in Geneva by a friend and attempted to be sold for £1m, triggering an investigation by German prosecutors in what is being described as a “violation of his personal range of life” and a breach of privacy.
German prosecutors in Offenburg have confirmed that “an unknown person” took a “secret” picture of Schumacher at his home in Switzerland, and has offered it for sale for “high amounts of money”.
Seven-time Formula One world champion Schumacher suffered a serious head injury in a skiing accident on 29 December 2013 in the exclusive ski resort of Meribel, France. The German racing driver was air-lifted to Grenoble University Hospital, before being transferred to Switzerland in Lausanne and eventually returning home in September 2014 to continue his ongoing treatment.
Up until now, there have not been any pictures or videos taken of Schumacher, with his family and manager, Sabine Kehm, working to maintain his and their privacy during his treatment. A number of close friends have visited the 47-year-old at his ranch near Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where he receives medical care at a specially-built facility that costs a reported £115,000-a-week.
However, one so-called friend has reportedly taken a picture of Schumacher in his bed and attempted to sell it to European media outlets at a fee of £1m, according to German TV channel RTL.
Ms Kehm has refused to comment on Schumacher’s condition for over two years, with the only information being made available by his lawyer, Felix Damm, who said in court that Schumacher could not walk after his family sued a German newspaper that claimed he could.
Career in Pictures: Michael Schumacher
Career in Pictures: Michael Schumacher
1/17 February 2006
Michael Schumacher is seen in the pits during a training session at the Ricardo Tormo racetrack in Cheste near Valencia in 2006
2/17 November 1994
Hugging two team mechanics in delight for becoming World Champion Driver after the Australian Grand Prix at the Adelaide circuit in November 1994
3/17 October 1995
Flavio Briatore carries a jubilant Michael after he wins the Pacific F1 Grand Prix at Aida in Japan, and wins his second World Drivers Championshp
4/17 February 1996
Schmacher pushes his Ferrari back to the pits after engine trouble left him stranded at the entrance of the pitlane during pre-season testing at Estoril, Portugal
5/17 March 1996
During the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne
6/17 March 1997
Michael Schumacher in the pit lane during the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia
7/17 October 2000
Celebrating on the podium after winning the formula one world championship at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Japan
8/17 July 2006
Michael Schumacher of Germany and Ferrari leads the pack into the first corner at the start of the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Nevers Magny-Cours Circuit
Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images
9/17 October 2010
Michael Schumacher drives during the Korean Formula One Grand Prix at the Korea International Circuit
Clive Mason/Getty Images
10/17 October 2011
Michael Schumacher and Mercedes GP waves to the crowd as he attends the drivers parade before the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit on October 30, 2011 in Noida, India
11/17 December 2011
Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher celebrate after winning the Nations Cup at day one of the race of champions event at the Esprit Arena
12/17 June 2012
Michael Schumacher drives at the Valencia Street Circuit on June 22, 2012 in Valencia during the first practice race of the European Formula One Grand Prix
13/17 September 2012
Michael Schumacher crashes into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne of France and Scuderia Toro Rosso during the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix in September 2012
14/17 November 2012
Schumacher drives in his last race during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
15/17 December 2013
Deputy director Jean Marc Grenier talks to media outside the CHU Nord hospital in Grenoble, French Alps
16/17 December 2013
Members of the staff are seen outside the emergency services at the CHU Nord hospital in Grenoble, French Alps; this is the hospital where retired seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is reported to be hospitalized after a ski accident
17/17 December 2013
A Scuderia Ferrari and Michael Schumacher fan waits, on December 29, in Grenoble, in front of the emergency department of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire hospital
When contacted by Motorsport Magazine last week, Ms Kehm repeated: “Michael's health is not a public issue, and so we will continue to make no comment in that regard.
“We have to protect his intimate sphere. Legally seen and in the longer term, every statement related to his health would diminish the extent of his intimate sphere.”
Ms Kehm has been criticised in recent months for not letting Schumacher’s fans know about his condition, which has led to a number of false and speculative articles, but she pleaded defended her and his family’s decision to maintain a media blackout.
“We do this with full commitment to Michael's guidelines and can only thank people for their understanding,” added Ms Kehm.
As part of the family’s thank you to fans, Ms Kehm launched the “Keep Fighting Initiative”, which comes after the slogan “Keep Fighting Michael” was adopted to show support for the ex-F1 driver on social media and by other drivers looking to pay tribute to the racing great on their cars, with the aim to “to keep fighting and never give up”.
“Michael has always been very protective of his privacy, even during the most successful times of his career. He has always made sure there is a clear and distinct line between his public persona and his private one,” Ms Kehm continued.