January 12, 2006

German cannibal retried on renewed murder charge

By Philip Blenkinsop

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German cannibal was led handcuffed
into court on Thursday for a retrial to determine whether
killing a man who wanted to be eaten amounts to murder.

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

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

The bizarre case of sexual fetishism and gory details of
the crime have transfixed the public in Germany and beyond,
while legal experts have puzzled over when a killing can be
called murder if the victim wanted to die.

Prosecutor Marcus Koehler read out the indictment as
44-year-old Meiwes, in a suit, charcoal gray shirt and striped
tie but by now out of handcuffs, sat back and listened.

Meiwes has admitted killing Berlin-based computer
specialist Bernd-Juergen Brandes, 42, but had initially been
spared a murder conviction and a possible life sentence because
the victim had asked to be eaten.

Prosecutors argued that he should have been found guilty of
murder as he had killed to satisfy perverted desires.

Defense counsel Harald Ermel has argued that Meiwes's sole
motive was to meet the wishes of his victim and that his crime
was only "killing on request," a form of illegal euthanasia
that carries a maximum five-year sentence.


Prosecutor Koehler told the court Meiwes took Brandt to his
half-timbered home in Rotenburg in central Germany from a
nearby railway station on March 9, 2001, having agreed the plan
over the Internet.

In a "slaughter room" fitted out with butcher's bench, meat
hook and cage, Meiwes severed Brandt's penis and they both
tried to eat it. Brandt tried to numb his senses by taking
painkillers and half a bottle of schnapps.

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

Hours later, as Brandt fell unconscious through blood loss,
Meiwes slit his throat and chopped off his head. The next day,
he froze portions of his flesh, eating some 20 kg (44 lb) of it
over following months.

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

Psychiatrists found Meiwes deeply disturbed but sane.

The court must examine Meiwes's motives and ask if they
were sufficient to constitute murder. The higher court said the
original court had ignored the fact that Meiwes had filmed the
slaying for sexual gratification.

Meiwes's lawyers argue the defendant only killed Brandt
because he wanted to die. Meiwes had earlier released four
other potential victims who backed out at the last minute.

He even drove Brandt back to the station after the victim
initially appeared to lose his nerve.