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Cannibal case gives chilling insight into secret world

'40 years and slim, want to be slaughtered for real by a slim butcher aged 30? Mail your fantasy' says another German site. And other sites to find more followers.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2004 18:29 IST

The murder trial of a self-declared German cannibal, which closes when judges will pass their verdict, has given a chilling insight into a secret world of extreme fetishism.

Armin Meiwes faces a life sentence if convicted of murdering Bernd Juergen Brandes, although the dead man was an apparently willing accomplice to his own death, dissection and consumption.

Investigators who trawled Meiwes' computer, video and photographic records say they were stunned at the scale and depths of the cannibal scene.

"It's something barely imaginable that has led us, as experienced criminal police, to areas where one's imagination doesn't even go," detective Wilfried Fehr told the court.

"It numbers people from all over society. They include dentists, teachers, cooks, bureaucrats and tradesmen."

Cannibalism is a practice that spans centuries and cultures -- seen by some as a religious rite, by others as a means of revenge and by still others as a means of respect -- but remains a taboo in modern society.

Last year, UN officials accused rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo of acts of cannibalism.

In 1972, the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes ate the flesh of dead passengers, a story later told in the film "Alive!". Then, it was a sheer case of surviving against the odds.

Rarely can the victim have appeared such easy prey as here, however.

Meiwes met Brandes after advertising on the Internet for someone willing to be slaughtered, carved up and eaten.

Brandes was not the only respondent -- at least five others came to Meiwes' home in Rotenburg, central Germany -- but he was the only one who allowed him to go all the way.

The Internet site Meiwes advertised on using the pseudonym Franky is still going strong. "Seeking young female flesh to torture and later to eat," writes a certain Freddy.

"What young man up to 40, slim, wants to be slaughtered for real by a slim butcher aged 30? Mail with photo and your slaughter fantasy," asks another on the German site.

An open letter on the website urges observers not to pre-judge the "normal" people exchanging fantasies, saying that even if people do arrange to meet, it does not go beyond sex and sado-masochism.

"The Rotenburg case is of course more than regrettable and I honestly hope it will not happen again," writes its author.

Other websites can be easily found, complete with stories, contact details and even recipes such as penis hotdog and penis with eggs.

Meiwes, an outwardly unassuming 42-year-old computer technician, said there were thousands of people just like him.

"The number of people on the Internet who are into it is much greater than people think," including several thousand in Germany alone, he told the court in a closing statement Monday.

"You can be sure many have not just remained in the realm of fantasy."

In fact, investigators sifted through 16 computers and some 2,000 disks to recover information about Meiwes' world of cannibalism.

Detective Wolfgang Buch said the accused had been in contact with more than 200 people, most of whom had "offered themselves as victims for slaughter."

Others "just wanted to be tortured," he added.

Beyond those, Meiwes also had contact with 13 Internet users who wanted to see a man being killed and eaten, and 29 said they had committed similar acts or were interested in doing so, Buch said.

Meiwes had other chances to live his fantasies. Among the would-be victims to call at his home was a cook who got cold feet after being hung from a meat hook, and an office worker who was rejected for being too fat.

First Published: Feb 02, 2004 17:33 IST