Cannibal of Rotenburg gets 8 years for eating a willing victim

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The Independent Online

A self-confessed cannibal was sentenced to eight and a half years imprisonment yesterday after a German court convicted him of manslaughter for mutilating, killing, butchering and eating a "deeply psychologically disturbed" man he had met through the internet.

Armin Meiwes, a 42-year-old computer expert, sat impassively in the dock of a packed neon-lit courtroom in Kassel as the trial judge found him guilty of killing Bernd Juergen Brandes, 41, at his farmhouse in the village of Rotenburg three years ago. The trial has shocked Germany, but the jail term imposed on Meiwes, the self styled "Cannibal of Rotenburg", was far more lenient than the life sentence demanded by the prosecution.

The case has no legal precedent because there is no such crime as cannibalism in Germany. The killing could not be considered murder because the victim wanted to be eaten and readily accepted that his own death was a logical consequence. Meiwes's lawyers said that their client could expect to be freed after four years because he had already proved to be a "model prisoner''.

Judge Volker Mütze described in detail the extraordinary events that led the cannibal to lure Mr Brandes to his rambling 20-room farmhouse. There he cut off his victim's penis, slit his throat and then dismembered the body, which he consumed in stages over the following year. The butchering of Mr Brandes was carried out in a specially constructed slaughter room. The events were filmed by Meiwes and shown in evidence to the court. The judge said: "The video made by Meiwes was like a wedding video, it was like a trophy.''

Explaining the manslaughter conviction, Judge Mütze said: "Meiwes did not enjoy killing his victim. The video clearly demonstrated that he found the act highly unpleasant. He was purely interested in dismembering and consuming the corpse in order to realise his psychological perversion. That was the high point of his ambitions."

Judge Mütze described Mr Brandes, a gay computer software engineer who worked for the German electronics firm Siemens in Berlin, as a "deeply psychologically disturbed man'' obsessed with realising his fantasy of having his penis either bitten off or severed by a knife.

"For him it was the ultimate kick,'' the judge said. "These were the actions of two mentally ill people. They were not interested in each other's problems. They simply wanted to realise their deepest desires."

The court heard how Meiwes was raised as an only child after his brother and father left home when he was nine. "Yet he had fantasies of gaining a brother who would be so close to him that he would become part of him. That fantasy soon turned into the idea of eating someone,'' Judge Mütze said.

Meiwes began advertising on the internet for "young men for real slaughter and consumption'' in 1999. He received scores of replies and several apparently willing victims visited Meiwes's home, where they were strung up on hooks from the ceiling and allowed parts of their bodies to be marked out for consumption. Except for Mr Brandes, they eventually backed down and Meiwes let them go home.

Mr Brandes travelled by train from Berlin to meet Meiwes at the railway station in Kassel after replying to his advert in March 2001. The two men went to Meiwes's home where they discussed what was to happen over coffee. They then went to an upstairs bedroom and tried to have sex.

But Mr Brandes insisted on being driven back to Kassel, ostensibly to return home. On the way, Meiwes managed to convince his victim to realise his fantasy. Mr Brandes agreed to return to Rotenburg after drinking a bottle of sedative cough mixture and 10 sleeping pills.

Back in Rotenburg, Mr Brandes persuaded Meiwes to cut off his penis, which he had placed on a wooden chopping board. Brandes consumed half a bottle of schnapps and more pills before Meiwes cut off his penis and then bound the wound with plaster.

Meiwes told the court during the six-week trial: "He said to me, 'I'm tired, cut the thing off, I want to experience it'." The two then agreed to eat the penis, which Meiwes cut in half. They found it "too tough'', so Meiwes took it to the kitchen and fried it in oil before they attempted to eat it again.

Meiwes then placed Brandes in a warm bath where he bled profusely for several hours. Meiwes later dragged Mr Brandes's limp body on to a table and remarked: "Your pulse is racing. Let me release you from your agonies.''

Judge Mütze said Meiwes then cut open Mr Brandes's neck "down to the spinal cord'', which resulted in his immediate death. The judge said Meiwes "took the whole thing without emotion, like a scientist''.