Described as polite and genial by those who knew him, Armin Meiwes, a computer technician, is the self confessed cannibal who gripped the media in Germany and indeed the world in late 2003 when he was arrested on a charge of the murder of Bernd-Juergen Brandes. After a gruesome but revealing trial he was found guilty of manslaughter because his victim had consented to the killing. He was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. He intended to spend his time in jail writing his memoirs. The comparatively light sentence drew public outcry
Warning: Some of the details to follow are graphic and violent, some readers may find them disturbing.
Born near the German town of Kassal in 1961, Armin Meiwes had a very lonely childhood. His father, a rather stern man, tended to ignore him and his mother became the dominant person in his life. She humiliated the young Armin by admonishing him loudly in public and insisting on accompanying him everywhere. On the few occasions that he went out with girls his mother insisted on accompanying him, and when he performed his military service in the 1980s, she even invited herself out with the troops. It was because of this sheltered, near fatherless childhood, that the young Armin created Franky.
Franky was Armin's imaginary younger brother. He had blond hair and listened to Armin, something his mother never did. This desire for a sibling was the catalyst for his first cannibalistic thoughts. At some point, between the ages eight and twelve, Armin developed the desire to have someone who "was a part of him." He fantasised about eating his friends, and possibly even Franky. His mother died in 1999, leaving the now adult Meiwes alone in the large family mansion, his fantasies intensified.
Searching for a Victim
The death of his mother devastated Meiwes. After the funeral, he constructed a shrine to her, complete with a plastic manikin that he would lie down on a pillow every night. He also developed an interest in internet pornography, particularly that which featured torture and pain. Through these sites that catered to those with unusual fetishes, Meiwes found his way into various forums for people interested in cannibalism. Most people were of course just fantasists and roleplayers and were keen to point this out, but, of the hundreds of members, Meiwes believed there might be some who were genuine.
In 2000, Meiwes posted the following on several message boards:
"I am looking for a young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter."
He later claimed it was in a fit of madness, but, the longer the advertisement stayed up, the more he fantasised and the more serious he became. He posted more messages, saying he would prefer a blond man whose "delicious flesh" he could eat. Eventually, Several men responded.
The first was a thirty-two year-old man named Borg Jose, he came to meet Meiwes and, having agreed on the procedure, removed his clothes and allowed himself to be suspended from a meat hook and then laid on a table for preparation. Meiwes covered him in oil and had begun to mark the man out for butchery, attaching labels such as "loin" and "steak" to him with pins, when Jose complained of feeling ill and asked to be released. Miewes complied and set him free.
The second was a man named Matteo. Matteo was a masochistic homosexual who wanted Meiwes to burn his testicles with a blow torch before nailing him to the floor and whipping him to death. This suggestion proved rather too much for the would-be cannibal, and he dismissed Matteo, saying that he found him "a bit weird." Another man was one who claimed to be able to provide a young boy to eat, however, he later claimed he would have to back down on the offer since the boy was being eaten at a Russian Orthodox feast. Nevertheless, Meiwes continued to advertise.
The fourth man to respond got as far as meeting Meiwes. His name was Andreas and his fantasy was to be picked up in a cattle truck by Armin wearing rubber boots and then slaughtered like a pig, however, he backed out after he had been wrapped in Clingfilm ready to be killed. According to Meiwes they ended up just fooling around, eating pizza and drinking beer. The next man, named Alex, wanted to be beheaded, but Meiwes refused on the grounds that he would be "too fatty to eat."
Undeterred, Meiwes met a sixth man, Stefan, and got to the stage of hanging him from a meat-hook in his house. He would have killed him, but it was too cold in there and Stefan left. The seventh potential victim was a twenty-seven year-old Londoner named Dirk Moller. This time, Miewes got as far as chaining the man to his bed and once again marking him out to be chopped up, but Moller got cold feet and, after being unchained, soon left. The final man to reply was Bernd-Juergen Brandes.
Brandes was a forty-three year old engineer from Berlin and on Valentines Day 2001, wrote to Meiwes under the username of Cator saying that he would agree to be eaten, provided Meiwes did it in a certain way. A series of e-mails followed in which the two teased each-other, Brandes at one point suggesting that Meiwes use his skull as an ashtray and going on to point out that since he was a smoker, he hoped his potential killer enjoyed smoked meat! After a month or so, the pair agreed to meet. Brandes sold all his possessions, wiped his computer's hard drive and took a day off work to sort of some "personal issues."
According to Meiwes, when they met at the train station, Brandes said "I am your Cator. I am your flesh."
Returning to his house, Meiwes and Brandes got on well. According to Meiwes they talked, but did not have sex, "it wasn't like that." After ensuring that it really was what he wanted, Meiwes gave Brandes twenty sleeping pills, a bottle of Vicks cold relief and some schnapps. After his victim had passed out, Meiwes set up a video camera, cut off Brandes penis, bandaged him and flambéed it with garlic. Some reports suggest Brandes was awake and in fact ate his own penis before taking the pills and medicine. After eating, Meiwes took Brandes upstairs and lay him in a warm bath in order to "bleed out" something that took about ten hours. Meiwes passed the time reading a Star Trek novel, but eventually became impatient and stabbed Brandes several times in the neck.
The killing complete, Meiwes took the corpse downstairs and put on an easy-listening music station whilst he stripped roughly 65lbs (30kg) of flesh from the body. He packaged the meat and hid it in his freezer, under the pizzas. For the next eighteen months he dined on his victim a lot, at one point attempting to grind down an arm bone in order to make flour.
Caught and Tried
By November 2002, Meiwes was beginning to run out of human flesh to eat and posted another advertisement on the internet. This one, however, was spotted by an Austrian student who notified the German police. On 11 December 2002, police raided Meiwes' mansion and discovered 15lbs of Brandes' flesh in the freezer along with the video Meiwes took and the slaughter-room that he had used. Reportedly Meiwes admitted to what he had done almost straight away. The story went public the next day and a media frenzy started, with the German press competing with each other to print more and more gruesome details!
Although there was initial suspicion that there might have been more victims, the police soon dropped that line of enquiry after raiding Meiwes' computer and finding his correspondences. They also found thousands of images of torture and pornography stored on his hard-drive. It took the police seven months to put together a full case against him, but on the 17th July 2003, Meiwes was officially charged with murder. The trial was set for the 3rd December.
In November, Meiwes granted an interview with the German newspaper, Welt am Sontag, in which he said that he regretted what he had done, but could not turn back the clock. He also said that he would not want anyone else to do what he did and said that they should seek professional help before it got out of hand. As the trial drew closer, it emerged that Germany did not have a law against cannibalism and so Meiwes would have to be charged with a little used statute prohibiting "disturbing the peace of the dead."
When the trial began, Meiwes' defence lawyers revealed that because they had almost incontrovertible evidence in the form of the video tape that the act was consensual, they were seeking a charge of mercy killing, a crime that carries a penalty of six months to five years under German law. The prosecution nevertheless believed that Meiwes was simply too dangerous to be released and continued to seek a conviction for murder. On the 29th December, a doctor told the court that whilst he may have a schizoid personality, Meiwes was not sick and could stand trial, this was backed up by a second doctor on the 23rd Janurary.
Throughout January, various witnesses were called, including Borg Jose and Dirk Moller for the defence and Brandes' partner who testified that his late boyfriend had never confided any thoughts of suicide to him and that he could not believe he had gone willingly. On the 26th January Meiwes told the court that he regretted his actions and would never kill again. By the 30th, a verdict had been reached. Meiwes was found not guilty of murder and convicted instead of manslaughter and disturbing the peace of the dead. He was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.
Three days after the verdict was reached the prosecution asked for an appeal, a date has yet to be set for it and it is unlikely to be successful.
Since his conviction, Meiwes has become something of a cult icon, the band Rammstein's song Mein Teil is about him and the controversial director Rosa von Praunheim has received public money to turn the story into a film. (Apparently one scene will include the disembodied head of Brandes telling Meiwes to be proud of what he has done!) Meiwes' story has intrigued and disgusted many and he has become one of Germany's most famous men with a plethora of internet sites devoted to him. He was expected to be released in 2008.
Update, Friday April 22, 2005
It has been announced that Meiwes is to face a re-trial and may see his sentence increased.
Update, Tuesday May 8, 2006
Meiwes has been re-tried, a verdict of manslaughter and a life sentence have been handed down.