Video images of mutilation and execution flickered in a darkened German courtroom yesterday, as cannibal Armin Meiwes’s grisly home movie was played for the first time.
The video chronicling the end of Bernd Juergen Brandes, a computer expert, was screened for judges, lawyers, the cannibal himself and lay observers. Press and public were excluded from many of the worst scenes. For 90 minutes, the court was plunged into a silence broken only by the stilted conversation on the tape between Mr Brandes and his killer.
It began with the mutilation of Mr Brandes and ended with him being stabbed repeatedly in the throat.
The video is exhibit A in the sensational trial and important to both defence and prosecution. Meiwes’s lawyer believes it will prove his client’s contention that nothing took place in his remote farmhouse home near the city of Kassel that Mr Brandes didn’t want to happen. The prosecution hopes it will convince the three judges trying the case that, befuddled by drink and a cocktail of sleeping tablets and cold medicine, Mr Brandes literally sleepwalked to his doom.
Officials leaked details of the 90 minutes that were selected to be played before the court. It opens in Meiwes’s kitchen and shows Mr Brandes undressing before the camera. He seems unsteady on his feet at times, but there is no sign of coercion or restraint. Meiwes is seen cutting off his Mr Brandes’s penis after the victim’s request: “Slice the thing off now”.
This is another indication, according to the defence, that Meiwes was no murderer but a man fulfilling both his and his victim’s wishes.
Mr Brandes is then bandaged with towels by Meiwes, who attempts to staunch the blood-flow. Then, with his back to the camera, Meiwes is seen by the oven as he starts to cook the penis. Mr Brandes remains seated upright, but his eyes are glazed over. A half-hearted attempt to consume his own flesh after it is removed from the pan ends in failure as he declares: “It is too tough”.
The video is switched off as Meiwes helps him up the stairs to a first-floor bathroom where, in his own words, he is left for several hours to “bleed out” in the bath while Meiwes watches a Disney film.
The finale comes in “the butchery” – a cold and sinister room painted in black and red at the top of the house. On the wall is the Cross of St Andrew in wood, various pulleys, ropes and meat hooks.
Mr Brandes mumbles something inaudible as the knife is plunged into him.
“That final look of recognition in his eyes could be interpreted by the judges as a signal that he did not want to die,” said one legal observer.
The video is four and a half hours long, but was condensed to 90 minutes for the court. A spokesman said the justices and other observers found it “hard going”.
The killing marked the turning point for Meiwes, who had fantasised from the age of 12 about killing and eating another human being. Far from sating his desires, it spurred him on to find new victims.
The court heard that Meiwes was arrested in December 2001 after an Austrian student read some e-mails in which the defendant stated he was looking for a new victim.