German international goalkeeper Robert Enke died on Tuesday evening at a railway level crossing, police have confirmed. "There has been a fatal accident at a level crossing," confirmed police spokesman Stefan Wittke.
Jorg Neblung, a close friend and advisor to the six-times capped goalkeeper, confirmed it was suicide. "I can confirm that it was suicide," he said. "Robert took his own life shortly before six o'clock (1700GMT). A press conference in Hannover on Wednesday will reveal more details," he added.
The 32-year-old Germany and Hannover goalkeeper - who leaves a widow and a daughter of eight months, who they adopted in May three years after their two-year-old daughter died of a heart illness - had been suffering from an intestinal sickness.
He pulled out of the Germany squad two days ahead of their 4-0 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying victory over Azerbaijan in early September. However, recently he professed to be delighted upon returning to training last month.
"It has been a long time, almost a quarter of the season. However, once I resumed training I felt really well," said Enke, who played his last match for the club in Sunday's 2-2 draw with Hamburg.
Bierhoff: "We're in shock"
His death left those closest to him both personally and professionally in total shock. "We're in shock. I don't know what to say," said national manager Oliver Bierhoff, who along with national coach Joachim Lowe informed his fellow international team-mates - who are preparing for a friendly with Chile this weekend, of the tragedy.
His club president Martin Kind was left stunned. "It is a total catastrophe. I am finding it hard to understand," said Kind. Later hundreds of the club's fans and several of his club-mates gathered outside the club's offices as a mark of respect with some laying down bouquets of flowers and lighting candles.
Enke was understudy to then first-team 'keeper Jens Lehmann at UEFA EURO 2008 and had been in line to fill his boots before being taken ill in September and October. During that time his rival Rene Adler increased his chances of taking over the role in the national team who have qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Enke had also at one time been linked with a move to German giants Bayern Munich where the former German Under-21 international Michael Rensing had not impressed in his first season between the posts. Several people had advised Enke, who had previously had spells at Benfica, Barcelona and Tenerife, to leave Hannover for a more prestigious club and one that was playing in European club competition so he would improve his chances of becoming German number one.