Cannibal Convicted of Manslaughter | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 30.01.2004

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Cannibal Convicted of Manslaughter

One of the most sensational trials in German legal history ended on Friday when judges convicted self-confessed cannibal, Armin Meiwes, to eight years and six months in prison.

He'll eat prison food for quite a while.

He'll eat prison food for quite a while.

The trial that has riveted Germany and the rest of the world for the past two months reached its culmination in a Kassel courtroom on Friday. Armin Meiwes, accused of killing a 43-year-old computer specialist from Berlin, eating his genitalia, and then freezing the rest of his body to consume in later repasts, was convicted of manslaughter. He will spend eight years and six months in prison.

State prosecutors, who had been pushing for a life sentence on a charge of murder motivated by sexual urges, failed to make their case.

The defense lawyer, Harald Ermel had argued on Thursday that his client, known as the "cannibal of Rotenburg", should get off lightly because his victim had been willing to die and be eaten.

Ermel had said that the cannibal could only be prosecuted on a charge of assisted suicide, which would carry a maximum prison term of five years. His victim, identified in the case only as Bernd-Jürgen B., volunteered to be killed after answering an Internet ad placed by 42-year-old Meiwes seeking "young men for real slaughter and consumption."

Complicated legal case

The case had been complicated by the fact that the victim had explicitly expressed the wish to die. During the trial Meiwes’ lawyer cited emails in which the victim insisted on being killed and eaten. "There’s absolutely no way back for me, only forwards, through your teeth," one read. Meiwes’ video of the killing, which made for chilling viewing inside the courtroom, has convinced prosecutors that Bernd-Jürgen B.’s death was voluntary.

The video shows Meiwes slaughtering his victim in a scene straight out of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," complete with meat hooks, a cage and a butcher’s table.

Professor Arthur Kreuzer told Reuters news agency that the case was bound to make legal history. "It is unique that we are leveling the severest charge of murder against someone and yet have to admit that the victim, whether disturbed or not, wanted it. The killer sought out his victim and the victim sought out his killer," he said.

A "human butcher"

But prosecutor Marcus Köhler said this week that Meiwes had been aware that his victim was suffering from a serious personality disorder and was unable to think rationally.

"The desire to slaughter a man and eat him up was the paramount motive for his action," Köhler said. "He slaughtered his victim like a piece of livestock and treated him as an object of fancy."

Opfer des Kannibalen

Bernd Jürgen B.

Köhler added that the trial had proven that Meiwes murdered his victim (photo) or his sexual gratification and to fulfill his cannibalistic yearnings. According to Köhler, Meiwes later used his video for sexual satisfaction and to admire his work as a "human butcher."

Meiwes: "I had my big kick"

Meiwes, who remained calm and collected throughout the trial, said he is writing a book on how he came to live his ultimate fantasy.

A psychiatrist testifying in the case last week described Meiwes as fit to stand trial. "There’s no evidence of a psychological disorder," said George Stolpmann. He added that the 42-year-old had a "schizoid personality" and has problems forming relationships. "What we have here is an inability to have warm and tender feelings toward others," he said.

In December, Meiwes said he was not acting out of sexual desire when he killed Bernd-Jürgen B., but rather out of loneliness and the desire for the brother he never had. I wanted "someone to be part of me," he told the court.

This week Meiwes told the court he regretted the deed and would not repeat it. "I had my big kick and don’t need to do this any more," he said.

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