Armin Meiwes, the so-called "cannibal of Rotenburg" who last year horrified and fascinated the world by admitting to slaughtering and consuming another man, could spend the rest of his life behind bars after all.
The Federal Constitutional Court (BGH) in Karlsruhe on Friday ordered a retrial for the 43-year-old Meiwes, who was convicted in January 2004 of killing and eating Jürgen Brandes.
A trial judge sentenced Meiwes to eight and a half years in prison last year after he confessed to the crimes. The lower court had found that because the act had satisfied the admittedly deranged desires of both the perpetrator and victim, it did not qualify as murder.
A tougher sentence
But on Friday, the BGH, Germany's highest criminal court overturned the verdict.
The court said that the lower court in Kassel last year had only deemed the unprecedented crime as 'manslaughter.' It added that it could not be ruled out that Meiwes had killed to "satisfy a sexual impulse."
The court is following a prosecution plea to categorize the gory crime as 'murder,' which would then get the life sentence.
At the time of his conviction last year, Meiwes had argued that the victim volunteered to be killed and eaten, so the case should be classified a mercy killing, which carries a maximum five-year penalty.
The evidence in the case was lurid.
The victim, 43-year-old Jürgen Brandes, a computer specialist, traveled from Berlin to Meiwes' home near the city of Kassel in 2001 in reply to an Internet advertisement seeking a young man for 'slaughter and consumption.'
After sex at Brandes' request, they cut off his engorged penis which they fried and tried to eat. Losing consciousness, Brandes was killed by Meiwes, who stabbed him and carved his body like an animal's.
The trial judge said Meiwes' thrill was in the carving and consumption, not the slaying. Meiwes ate 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of the flesh -- accompanied by pepper sauce or wine sauce with potatoes -- and stored more in a freezer before burying the rest.
He has become a minor celebrity and a media company has acquired the rights to make a film about his life.
Meiwes told the trial last year he regretted the killing, but Brandes "came to me of his free will to end his life."
Meiwes said he was not acting out of sexual desire when he killed Brandes, 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.