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Armin Meiwes: German Cannibal

Crime Files
Armin Meiwes
Image Credit: Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo | Above: Armin Meiwes, who was convicted of killing and eating another man, waits for the verdict in his retrial at a regional court in Frankfurt, central Germany on Tuesday 9th May 2006

Born in the German town of Kassel, computer technician Meiwes led a very lonely childhood. His father was a stern man who was largely disinterested in his son. When the marriage broke up, when Meiwes was only eight, he abandoned the family, never to contact them again. He later told the court during the murder trial that Meiwes had been a well-behaved little boy but had been obsessed with the story of Hansel and Gretel, in particular the chapter about fattening up Hansel to cook and eat him.When Meiwes' father left, it fell to his mother to become the dominant parent, who would often admonish him in public and insisted in accompanying him everywhere. Meiwes, lacking a father figure, created an imaginary brother called Franky through whom he vented his first cannibalistic thoughts, as Franky would 'listen' to Meiwes, something his mother never did.

At age 12 Meiwes began to fantasise about eating his friends so that they would become part of him and stay with him forever, a desperate solution for a very lonely and misunderstood only child.In 1999, Meiwes' mother died and left him the family's large mansion house in Amstetten. Totally alone for the first time in his life, without the demands of his controlling mother, he reportedly constructed a shrine to her in the house, complete with a plastic mannequin that he would lay on a pillow each night.After his mother's death he also developed an interest in internet pornography, particularly that featuring torture and pain, and through these internet sites Meiwes found his way into his first chat rooms about cannibalism.


Born 1 December 1961The Victim 9 March 2001: Bernd-Jürgen BrandesArrested 11 December 2002: Armin MeiwesTrial 3 December 2003Convicted 30 January 2004Sentenced Eight and a half years in prisonRe-Trial 12 January 2006Sentenced Life in prison

The Arrest

Still hungry?

By November 2002 Meiwes had nearly finished his supply of Brandes' frozen flesh and posted another message for a victim on the internet. It was seen by an Austrian student who reported it to local authorities. On 11 December 2002 police raided Meiwes house and found 15lbs of Brandes' flesh under pizza boxes in his freezer, as well as the video of the killing.

Meiwes reportedly admitted to what he had done almost straight after his arrest in December 2002. It took police seven months to put together a case, after going through Meiwes' computer to trace evidence of his correspondence over the previous few years. They found thousands of images of torture and pornography and on 17 July 2003 he was charged with murder.

The Crimes

An odd request

In 2000 Meiwes posted a message saying, “I am looking for a young, well-built man aged 18 to 30 to slaughter”. Several men responded, one of which was a man called Borg Jose who was about to become Meiwes' first victim. While laid out on his table preparing to be butchered, Jose complained of feeling ill and asked to be released, which Meiwes obliged.The final man to reply to Meiwes' internet message was Bernd-Jürgen Brandes. Brandes was a 43-year-old bisexual engineer, who wrote to Meiwes on 14 February 2001 saying that he would agree to be eaten. They exchanged various lurid emails, discussing the best way in which he should be eaten and his body used afterwards. Brandes even suggested his skull could be used as an ashtray.On 9 March 2001, Brandes went to Meiwes' home in Amstetten and after having sex, Brandes swallowed numerous sleeping pills, a bottle of Vicks cough medicine and some schnapps before Meiwes amputated his penis for the pair to eat together. Brandes tried to eat a piece of the penis raw but it was apparently too “chewy” and so Meiwes proceeded to fry it with a little garlic and pepper but burned it, meaning that neither of them was able to consume the dismembered part.

Losing large amounts of blood from the injury, Brandes lay bleeding to death in the bath over the next three hours, while Meiwes read a Star Trek book. Ten hours later, Brandes was still alive, so Meiwes stabbed him several times in the neck to put an end to his pain, and his life. Meiwes woud later explain: “My friend enjoyed dying, death. I only waited horrified for the end after doing the deed. It took so terribly long.”Then the cannibalism began. Meiwes hung Brandes' lifeless body on a meat-hook and proceeded to cut the flesh into sizeable chunks and grind the bones into flour. He dismembered the entire body so that he could store the parts in his freezer, which he proceeded to eat over the following 10 months.The entire process of Brandes' penis amputation and subsequent death had been recorded on videotape by the pair and would later be used as evidence against Meiwes.

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The Aftermath

Loss of appetite

According to a report in October 2007, by German newspaper Bild-Zeitung, Meiwes was helping investigators in the analysis of two suspected cannibal murders from 1998 and 2000, in which two young boys were found horribly mutilated, possibly by the same murderer.Upon entering prison Meiwes became a vegetarian, worked in the prison library and joined a prisoners' group which stands for Green Party politics.Meiwes has also rejected substantial offers from film companies and publishers to bring his story to the big screen and has instead assigned the global rights to his story to Stampf’s Hamburg-based company, Stampfwerk, for no charge, on the condition it gives an accurate account of his case.

The Trial

Was it a crime?

On 30 January 2004, Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.The case attracted considerable media attention and started a debate over whether Meiwes could be convicted at all, due to the fact that Brandes had voluntarily taken part in the cannibalism and had entered Meiwes' house fully aware of his intentions. It also proved problematic for German lawyers who discovered that cannibalism is in fact legal in Germany and subsequently charged Meiwes with murder for the purposes of sexual pleasure and with 'disturbing the peace of the dead'.At the trial, 19 minutes of the video showing key moments of the crime was shown to the court, after reporters and the public were removed.Only a year later, in April 2005, a German court ordered that there should be a retrial, after prosecutors appealed Meiwes' sentence as being too lenient. Their argument was that he should have been convicted of murder, not manslaughter, and been given a life sentence.

The retrial began on 12 January 2006, where prosecutors questioned the actual reasoning for Brandes’ killing as being a way to satisfy Meiwes' own sexual desires, rather than obliging Brandes his request. They also brought to light the fact that Brandes was not capable of making any decisions on the evening of 9 March, as he had consumed significant amounts of alcohol and drugs to numb the pain of his penis amputation.On 10 May 2006, a court in Frankfurt convicted Meiwes of murder and changed his initial eight and a half year sentence to life imprisonment.