The German cannibal killer Armin Meiwes was sentenced to life in prison today, as a court overturned his earlier eight-year sentence for killing and eating the computer engineer Bernd-Jurgen Brandes in 2001.
The five-month hearing found Meiwes guilty of murder, replacing an original sentence for manslaughter imposed in January 2004.
The case posed difficult questions for Germany’s legal system about the limits of murder. Meiwes’s lawyers had been seeking a more lenient sentence of “killing upon request“, which would carry a sentence of up to five years, because of the fact that Brandes, 43, had agreed to be killed and eaten.
The court heard how Brandes had originally replied to a March 2001 internet posting by Meiwes seeking a “well-built male” for “slaughter and consumption”.
Just over a week later, Brandes travelled to Meiwes’s detached house in the central German town of Rotenberg, where Meiwes cut off his penis and cooked it for them to share as a last meal.
Brandes had drunk a bottle of schnapps and taken painkillers before the ritual began. After he passed out from loss of blood, Meiwes began cutting him open on his workbench.
The whole episode was recorded on videotape, excerpts of which were shown at the original trial in closed hearings.
Meiwes, now 44, ate much of the body and butchered the rest before freezing it in pieces. He had eaten 20kg of Brandes’s flesh before he was caught in December 2002 after other internet surfers reported his activities to police.
Psychiatrists told the court in the original hearing that Meiwes was perfectly sane, despite being deeply disturbed and obsessed with cannibalism since puberty.
His defence lawyers argued that his sentence should be reduced because his insistence on consensual killing meant he was “no danger to society”, although they admitted he would be happy to kill and eat people who wanted to commit suicide.
Prosecutors argued that Meiwes should have known that Brandes was disturbed and should have questioned his motives for wanting to be killed.