Is it murder if victim asks to be eaten?

Convicting a German cannibal of murder may be difficult as the victim offered to be ‘dined upon’

BERLIN – Prosecutors in the case of the German who killed and ate a man could face legal problems proving he had committed murder because the victim offered himself for slaughter and wanted to be eaten.

Armin Meiwes, who went on trial yesterday, has been charged with murder for ‘sexual satisfaction’. Cannibalism is not a crime in Germany, Britain’s Independent on Sunday reported.

Meiwes met the man he ate, Mr Bernd-Juergen Brandes, in early 2001, after advertising on websites for ‘young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter’. The Independent said Mr Brandes, 43, said in an online message: ‘I offer myself to you and will let you dine from my live body. Not butchery, dining!!’

Prosecutors say that despite the dead man’s apparent ‘death wish’, the accused is guilty of killing him to satisfy an extreme sexual lust.

But the consensual nature of his act could make a murder charge difficult to apply, legal experts said.

Although Meiwes has admitted killing Mr Brandes, his lawyer is arguing for a ‘killing by demand’ verdict, as would be the outcome in an euthanasia case.

It carries a sentence of six months to five years.

Professor Arthur Kreuzer of the Institute for Criminology at Giessen University said the case might make legal history.

‘This is killing undertaken for both killer and victim and cannot be regarded as the worst case of premeditated killing.

‘But I don’t think it is a killing on request either because it was not an altruistic, but an egoistic deed.’

He said the case might go as high as the Federal Constitutional Court and that prosecutors may be forced to consult new medical experts to assess Meiwes’ mental state. He has been assessed as psychologically competent to stand trial.

Much will rest on whether prosecutors can prove whether Mr Brandes was still alive when Meiwes stabbed him, the Independent said.

If convicted of murder, Meiwes faces life imprisonment.

The lesser manslaughter charge carries a term of 15 years or considerably less, after which he would be free.

Just quite what drove him to murder and cannibalism is unclear.

Blood fantasies often start in childhood, said Professor Andreas Marneros, head of psychiatry and psychotherapy at the University of Halle- Wittenberg.

In rare cases, usually due to a personality disorder, they develop over the years until the urge to consume human flesh becomes uncontrollable.

Once they crossed the threshold from fantasy to reality, ‘the danger of a repetition is extremely high with the aggressive form of this massive sexual disorder’.

He said the four cannibals he had studied were ‘possessed’ by lust.

Prof Marneros pointed to a primeval belief – noted by Sigmund Freud – that by eating human flesh, the cannibal believes he is ingesting his victim’s power and soul.

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