Cannibal's trial told he murdered victim 'for own sexual gratification'

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The Independent Online

A self-confessed cannibal smiled and joked as he opened a legal battle to escape life imprisonment at the start of a retrial for killing and eating a homosexual computer engineer he met via the internet.

In a 2004 trial, Armin Meiwes, 44, known as the "Cannibal of Rotenburg", was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for eight years after judges decided his victim, Bernd Jürgen Brandes, 42, had volunteered to be killed and eaten.

However, Germany's appeals court ruled last spring that the judges had overlooked evidence which suggested he had killed for sexual pleasure. They argued the sentence was too lenient and ordered a retrial - this time on charges of murder.

Looking relaxed, Meiwes joked with his lawyers yesterday as a prosecutor, Marcus Köhler, told the court in Frankfurt: "The defendant stands accused of murder for sexual gratification."

The prosecution's case is based on the contents of a video shot by Meiwes during his act of cannibalism at his farmhouse in Rotenburg in 2001. The recording shows how Brandes was stabbed and allowed to bleed to death and how Meiwes ate parts of his body.

State prosecutors argue the video proves the accused killed for his own sexual pleasure. During his initial trial it emerged that Meiwes cut up his victim's body, put the parts in his freezer and ate them over a period of months. If convicted of murder, he will face a maximum term of life in jail.

Meiwes' lawyers insist their client killed a willing victim and that his act was akin to euthanasia, as Brandes had claimed he wanted to be killed and eaten. In a recent interview conducted from jail, Meiwes said: "I understand and deeply regret what I did, but the victim wanted me to do it. Otherwise, I would never have touched him."

Meiwes is working with a German film-maker on a documentary about his life.