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German cannibal case reveals gory details

The act of sexual fetishism shows the role of the Internet in nurturing people's darkest fantasies, said the judge of the German cannibal trial.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2004 18:30 IST

A German cannibal was convicted of manslaughter for killing and eating a man he met through the Internet, avoiding a murder verdict because the victim had asked to die.

The court sentenced computer repair man Armin Meiwes, 42, to eight and a half years in jail, rejecting the prosecution's plea for a murder conviction and life sentence because Meiwes was following the intructions of his 43-year-old victim.

The act of sexual fetishism, which Meiwes recorded on video tape, has highlighted the role of the Internet in nurturing people's darkest fantasies, said judge Volker Muetze.

"Both were looking for the ultimate kick," said Muetze, explaining the verdict in the central German court of Kassel. "This was an act between two extremely disturbed people who both wanted something from each other."

Many observers called the sentence too lenient but the judge said the legal system allowed no other verdict.

Meiwes, fit-looking, well-spoken and unemotional throughout the trial, showed no reaction as the verdict was read out. He could be out on parole in less than five years, but one expert said he doubted the cannibal would be released early.

About 100 journalists from Germany and abroad and dozens of people from Kassel attended the last day of the trial, which has sparked shock and fascination around the world with its gory details.

"It's too lenient, he should have got life," said Bernd Exner, a local resident who queued up for hours to get into the court. "Society needs to be protected from people like that."

The prosecution, which had accused Meiwes of killing for sexual gratification a man he should have known was disturbed, said it would appeal.

The case could ultimately go before Germany's Supreme Court because it has no legal precedent. The killing was premeditated, but the victim's agreement lessened the guilt. Psychiatrists found Meiwes deeply disturbed but sane.

The defence had sought a lesser conviction of "killing on request", a form of illegal euthanasia, but were still pleased.

"He's a model prisoner and if he stays that way he could be out by mid-2008," Meiwes's lawyer Harald Ermel told reporters. "He will voluntarily undergo psychiatric therapy to get away from his fetish for men's flesh. I'm sure he won't do anything like this again."

"Without the Internet, this would not have been possible."

Internet Contact

Meiwes, who said in court he had fantasised since puberty about consuming a man to fill the void caused by the sudden departure of his father, had been in touch with hundreds of people on the Internet, where he posted ads seeking fit men for "slaughter".

He built a "slaughter room" complete with butcher's bench and meat hook and a cage in the sprawling half-timbered house in Rotenburg near Kassel left him by his late, domineering mother.

The judge said both Meiwes and his victim, a Berlin computer specialist named only as Bernd-Juergen B., had good jobs and normal friends who knew nothing of their fantasies, which grew stronger as they found like-minded people on the Web.

The fateful meeting came in March 2001 in Meiwes's house after Meiwes responded to Bernd-Juergen B.'s Internet ad seeking someone to bite off his penis and kill him.

Meiwes told the court how the killing had begun with him trying unsuccessfully to bite off the victim's penis, then cutting it off with a knife and slicing it in half lengthwise.

They both tried to eat it raw, and then fried it, trying again to eat it. "It was too chewy," said Muetze. Meiwes then waited for hours until the victim, weakened by loss of blood, fell unconscious shortly after saying that he needed to urinate.

He laid him out on his butcher's bench and cut him in pieces. He ate 20 kg (44 lb) of the body over the following months, defrosting pieces portion by portion. He kept the skull in the freezer and buried other body parts in his garden.

First Published: Feb 02, 2004 17:33 IST