German cannibal: 'I've had the kick of a lifeltime'

Ernest Gill | January 28, 2004

Self-confessed German cannibal Armin Meiwes (R) speaks with his lawyer Harald Ermel (L) at the beginning of a court session in Kassel 26 January 2004.
Photo: AFP/Uwe Zuchi
KASSEL, Germany — The most macabre case in recent German jurisprudence comes to an end Friday, with legal experts unable to predict whether self-confessed gay cannibal Armin Meiwes will be locked away forever - or will walk away a free man.

In a bizarre twist to what has been a bizarre story from the start, both the prosecution and the defence are arguing that the aimiable, good-looking 42-year-old defendant is completely sane.

The prosecution, seeking life imprisonment, insists he is guilty of the cold-blooded and premeditated murder of a gay Berlin computer systems expert, Bernd Juergen Brandes, in March 2001.

The defence, seeking acquittal or at most five years in prison with parole, insists he is guilty of nothing more than "assisted suicide" because Brandes was a masochist with a castration and mutilation fetish.

Either way, Meiwes is unlikely to be committed to a mental institution -much to the bewilderment of the general public in Germany, who have been following this case with a mixture of disgust and morbid fascination.

Meiwes himself said in a final statement to the court this week that he feels regret but no real remorse. He regrets having been caught. He feels no remorse for what he did.

"I took his life, and I readily admit that," the tight-lipped man with the hazel eyes, receding brown hair and square jaw-line told the court matter-of-factly.

"But I want the court to understand that I did nothing that ran contrary to his express wishes," he said of the 39-year-old man he met via a gay Internet chat room in early 2001. Meiwes was looking for someone to "gobble up". Brandes was looking for someone to carve him up.

"He wanted it so badly, it was his heart's desire," Meiwes said of Brandes' death wish.

"And if I hadn't been so stupid as to get back on the Internet and look for other men, I would have taken Bernd's and my secret with me to my grave," he said.

But - without the slightest apparent trace of remorse - he told the court, "I've had the kick of a lifetime. You don't need to worry that I'll ever need to do this again."

Bolstering his argument was expert testimony from a psychiatrist who testified that Meiwes, while criminally perverted, is legally sane.

Dr. Georg Stolpmann said Meiwes suffered from a serious psychological abnormality, but he was responsible for his actions in the legal sense of sanity.

"It was a premeditated, thoroughly planned and meticulously executed act," Stolpmann testified. "The conscious thought processes of this man's mind were in no way impaired.

Meiwes was acutely aware of the legal ramifications of his actions, which is why he placed such importance on getting his victim's willing consent. Thus, his mental competency is not in question."

Stolpmann said the defendant had subsequently written to an acquaintance: "It is an incredible feeling to have ultimate power over another man and to slice him up into serving portions."

"For Meiwes, the goal of all this was what he called 'to get the biggest kick of my life', as he has said repeatedly," Stolpmann said. "He wanted absolute power over another person and was planning from the start to commit other such crimes."

Embarrassingly for Germans, this case revives memories of the infamous Butcher of Hanover, a man who lured scores of young men and boys to their deaths over a five-year period after World War I.

Fritz Haarmann, a real-life meat market owner in Hanover, Germany, took advantage of post-war economic chaos to prey on street urchins and jobless young men. Promising them money for sex, he killed and dismembered them - then sold their meat in his butcher shop.

Disposing of the corpses by turning them into cutlets and sausages, he got away with his crimes until 1924 when a youth escaped and tipped off police. Investigating officers were stunned by piles of blood-stained clothes and a back sewer full of skulls.

Convicted of 27 deaths (though he proudly claimed more than 5), Haarmann was sentenced to death and while in prison awaiting decapitation he gave a tell-all statement. Like Meiwes, he said slaughtering and eating his victims gave him a sexual kick.

German filmmaker Fritz Lang adapted the Butcher of Hanover story for the screen, though he was constrained to tone down the most grisly details for mainstream audiences.

Peter Lorre was cast as the serial killer. There were no male prostitutes or toy boys, instead this time the victims were sweet little girls.

The finished movie was entitled "M" and became one of the classic films of all time for making conceivable something so inconceivable.

Meiwes, meanwhile, says he is considering a number of offers from publishers for his life story.

"There are lots of other people out there like me, at least 500 in Germany alone, I'd estimate," he said - a claim supported by the fact that 40 gay men responded to his chat line "gobble up" request.

"They need to hear what I have to say so they can get the professional help I never did," Meiwes said. –Sapa-dpa

Related links stories
Cannibal could kill again, German court told [20/01/2004]



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