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13 January 2006

Bite Me 2


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Saturday 14 January 2006

Video the key
to cannibal retrial

FRANKFURT -- A convicted German cannibal has returned to court for a retrial to determine if his killing and eating of a willing victim amounted to murder.

Photographers' flashbulbs greeted the arrival in a packed court of a handcuffed Armin Meiwes, a computer repairman who cut up and consumed a man he had met via the internet.

Meiwes was first sentenced in January 2004 to 8 1/2 years' jail for manslaughter, but the Supreme Court ruled last April that the judges had been too lenient and ordered a retrial.

The bizarre case of sexual fetishism and the gory details of the crime have transfixed the public in Germany and beyond, while legal experts have argued over the definition of murder.

In a dark suit, and thinner than at his first trial, 44-year-old Meiwes listened again to prosecutor Marcus Koehler's description of his crime.

Meiwes had admitted killing Berlin-based computer specialist Bernd-Juergen Brandes but was spared a murder conviction and a possible life sentence as the victim had yearned to be eaten.

Germany's top criminal court said the first trial court had ignored the fact that Meiwes had filmed the slaying for later sexual gratification, a fact that could tip the scale in favour of a murder conviction.

His defence team countered that Meiwes had merely acceded to his victim's wishes and that his crime was only "killing on request," a form of illegal euthanasia that carries a maximum five-year sentence.

Lawyer Harald Ermel acknowledged his client had a "fetish for human flesh" but said he was no longer a threat. "Under the same circumstances he would never do something like that again."

Mr Koehler told the court Meiwes brought Brandes to his home in Rotenburg, central Germany, in March 2001.

In a "slaughter room" fitted out with a butcher's bench, meat hook and cage, Meiwes severed Brandes's penis and they both tried to eat it.

"Due to the consistency of the penis, this did not succeed, either raw or fried," Mr Koehler said.

When Brandes fell unconscious, Meiwes slit his throat, pulled out his organs and chopped off his head.

The next day, he froze portions of Brandes's flesh, eating 20kg of it over following months.

"He (subsequently) watched the video of the killing of Brandes for his sexual pleasure," Mr Koehler told the court.

Psychiatrists found Meiwes deeply disturbed but sane.

His lawyers pointed out that he had earlier released four other potential victims who had changed their minds at the last minute and had driven Brandes back to Rotenburg station after the victim initially appeared to lose his nerve.

Lawyer Joachim Bremer said Brandes had made it quite clear through email, internet chat and telephone conversations that he wished to end his life.

"He made this clear to others and left no doubt about the seriousness of this desire," Mr Bremer said.

Like fictional cannibal Hannibal Lecter, Meiwes has become the subject of a US film, Butterfly, which is due for release in Germany in March.

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