You are listening to: The Evidence Locker.
Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.
This episode contains details of castration and cannibalism. It may not be suitable for all audiences. Listener discretion is advised.
On a warm summer’s night in July 2001, a 23-year-old Austrian medical student logged on to his computer. He loved surfing the internet and could not imagine that only a decade before, the world wide web did not exist.
What Reinhold really liked, was finding dark and macabre images or video clips. And that Monday night, was no different. He typed the words “horror and nervous thrills” into the search bar and waited to see what was out there. Among the results, one website caught his eye: Cannibal Café.
Reinhold logged onto the website and saw threads of threads and forums about the consumption of human flesh. This was great, he thought, with a feeling of repulsion and intrigue. His eyes widened as he read some of the conversations: some longed to butcher people, others were eager to be butchered and eaten.
Reinhold thought this was simply a fantasy forum, nothing else. It was dark and grim, but surely it was only role-play, perhaps even a sexual fetish, although he had never heard of cannibalism being erotic.
He saw one advertisement that cut to the chase. Someone using the nickname ‘Franky’ posted:
“Hi, are you between the ages of 18 and 30 years old with an average build, and would you like to be butchered? Then come to me, I’ll make it happen. Reply, informing me of your age, size, weight – preferably with a photo.”
Reinhold had never seen anything like this. To see if this guy was for real, he sent him an email, pretending to be interested. He also asked him how many people he had butchered. ‘Franky’ replied almost instantly.
“Well, let’s say I have experience; in any case you wouldn’t be the first. 23, that’s an optimal butchering age; the body has just matured and is still very tender. Write me more about yourself – your height and weight? I’m 38, 6 feet and 165 pounds. I look forward to your reply. Your master butcher.”
The young Austrian student knew that this was no fantasy. The man on the other end of the online conversation was a cannibal and he was hunting for prey.
Armin Meiwes was born in the city of Essen, in Western Germany in December 1961. He was the third son of Waltraud Meiwes, who had been married twice before. The family had a second property in the small town of Wüstefeld, near Rotenburg. There they owned a large half-timbered manor house that had no less than 36 bedrooms. The home was situated on the edge of town in a park-like garden with big trees.
The home felt like a time capsule with heavy wooden beams and interior decorating to suit the medieval style of the mansion. Stepping inside the Meiwes family home was like stepping back into the past. The home was busy with three boys who liked riding their horses and playing cops and robbers in the expansive garden.
Armin’s half-brothers were from Waltraud’s previous marriage and they were much older than Armin. But they always included him in their games. When Armin was six years old, both his brothers left home as it was time to start their own lives.
One day, as Armin was playing in the garden with the neighbours’ children, he heard the front door slam and saw his father get into his car and drive off. He knew something was wrong and ran after the car, calling for his dad to stop. But he didn’t. His father left without even saying goodbye or looking back. In that instant, eight-year-old Armin Meiwes’ life changed forever.
For him, his father’s departure came completely out of the blue – he thought his parents were happy. And after his brothers had left, his dad was his whole world. They were very close.
But his father was gone, and he never contacted Waltraud or Armin again. He also emptied the bank accounts, leaving them with nothing but their house. Shortly after this, his grandmother passed away – another setback. Armin could not deal with the family crisis all. He felt like he had lost his whole family in the matter of two years.
His mother became somewhat of a recluse after her husband left. They spent more and more time in Wüstefeld. She withdrew from any kind of social life outside of the manor house. Inside, she created a fantasy life where she would be the lady of the manor and Armin would be her servant.
She would dress both of them up in medieval clothing and have formal dinners for mother and son in the time warped dining room.
Waltraud had become bitter and cynical and directed her hatred toward men to Armin. She emasculated him by calling him Minchen, which was a pet-name for a young girl. She constantly belittled him in front of neighbours and friends. At home, Armin had to wait on her hand and foot.
Young Armin was very lonely and felt isolated from the rest of the world. So, he invented an imaginary younger brother whom he called Frank. He told Frank his most intimate ideas and fantasies. He loved the story of Hansel and Gretel, especially the part where the witch wanted to fatten Hansel up, so she could eat him.
When he was 10, Armin read Robinson Crusoe for the first time and completely lapped it up. Crusoe meets Friday as he is about to be eaten by cannibals and helps him to escape. Friday becomes Crusoe’s servant and both men learn a lot from each other. Before Crusoe converts Friday to Christianity, Friday sees cannibalism as something that is ‘normal’, which sparked an interest in eating human flesh in Armin Meiwes.
He found butcher shops fascinating and would watch intently as they chopped and sliced meat. As he watched, he would imagine they were processing human flesh. Finding humour in the fantasy, he thought what a human butcher shop would be like.
What if the descriptive signs, that are pegged into the meat, didn’t read: beef rump or pork fillet?
What if it said: “Michael, 16, blond, lightly muscular, charming and friendly, likes playing football.”
Armin became obsessed with the idea of consuming someone and thought that this act would forge some kind of permanent bond. He imagined dismembering and eating his peers, so they could be with him forever. They would never be able to leave him like his brothers and his father did. He hoped, that by devouring someone, his loneliness would disappear.
When he reached puberty, Armin’s fantasy evolved and his imaginary relationship with Frank developed sexual undertones. He created other beautiful young men in his mind and doted on them. Their physicality reminded him of Robinson Crusoe’s description of Friday:
“He was a comely handsome Fellow, perfectly well made; with straight strong Limbs, not too large; tall and well-shaped, and as I reckon, about twenty-six Years of Age. He had a very good Countenance, not a fierce and surly Aspect; but seemed to have something very manly in his Face, and yet he had all the Sweetness and Softness of a European in his Countenance too, especially when he smiled.”
But in the fantasy, the object of his desire would have to be a willing participant. The young man would have to sacrifice himself and Armin would not force him in any way. In Armin’s mind, the friend could only continue living inside of him, if there is total submission and compliance.
Adolescent Armin spent most of his free time at home with his mother. He never went out with friends. If neighbourhood kids wanted to hang out with him, it had to be at the Manor house. Waltraud had a strong influence on her son and guilted him into keeping her company and taking care of her.
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When it was time to leave school, Armin saw an opportunity to get out of his stifling home life and joined the West German army. He really enjoyed his time in the armed forces and hoped to become a professional soldier. In this time, he started questioning his sexuality.
He had a couple of casual relationships with women, but it never went anywhere. There was one, a girl named Petra, whom he had met through a dating agency. He felt rather serious about her, but she broke off the relationship before they could get married.
Whenever Armin took a girl home, Waltraud would not approve. She only wanted the best for her son, and none of the girls measured up. She had an delusion of grandeur: she was the lady of her big country home and he was the most eligible bachelor in town. She wanted to fill all 36 rooms with grandchildren, family, friends…
All of this was a lot to take in for a guy like Armin. He realised that he was also attracted to men, but he felt he was not completely gay, rather bi-sexual. Some of his army friends thought that he was a gay man who had not come out yet.
Altogether, Armin Meiwes spent 12 years in the armed forces. During this time, he thought he had outgrown his cannibalistic urges. The truth was… He was actually living and functioning in reality – not in the fantasy life that his mother imagined at home – also not in the fantasy world he had created for himself.
He was part of a group and always had people around him. He had a job to do and his fellow soldiers counted on him. For the first time since his brothers and father left, he was not lonely.
Then it all came undone, when after a night of drinking, he crashed his car and lost his license. Not long after this incident, he did exactly the same thing: he got drunk and crashed his car – again. With his record permanently tainted, there was no future for him in the military anymore.
Armin had no choice but to return home to his mother’s home in Wüstefeld. This was in the 1990’s and the computer industry was booming. He trained to become a computer technician and quickly signed up a couple of regular customers for computer repairs.
Because Armin grew up in the area, he knew a couple of people. He was well-liked and socialised with old school friends and even babysat their children. His army buddies also didn’t forget him and often invited him to go sailing with them.
When he was invited, Armin always had to ask his mother first. His friends did find it strange that a 30-year-old man needed his mother’s permission. Waltraud never said ‘yes’ immediately. After making him sweat for a couple of days, she would graciously give him the green light to go.
In 1996, Waltraud was in a horrible car accident, which she survived. But she was in a lot of pain and there was more pressure on Armin to care for her. She was demanding and rude, but Armin was the ever-dutiful son who did whatever he was asked to do.
Spending a lot of lonely nights at home with his ageing mother, the budding computer technician found the joys of internet surfing – a new past time in the 1990’s. After digging around a bit, he found a forum with people exactly like him: people who fantasised about
cannibalism. He signed up right away to the website called Cannibal Café.
This site has since been discontinued, but back in the day, its URL was www.necrobabes.com. The site made it clear that it was a fantasy forum. A disclaimer stated that people who…
“…are incapable of separating artistic fantasy from reality should leave this site.”
Armin was in his element. He wasn’t alone in his strange desires – hundreds and hundreds of people were posting messaging 24/7. Armin used his computer skills to manipulate images, making it appear as if though he was a real cannibal. He became quite creative and fashioned figures out of marzipan.
He took photos of himself chopping the figures up. With some tweaks in Photoshop, it looked like he was cutting real human flesh.
What he didn’t realise was that he had a paraphilic disorder (or a sexual preference disorder) that was quickly getting out of control. His fetish was very specific: he wanted male flesh from a person he knew and liked who would voluntarily gave himself up. Then he wanted to slaughter the body – the dismemberment and slicing was what turned him on most.
For a while, Armin lived a double life. That of a computer technician by day, a guy who said hello to all his neighbours and cared for his mother. But at night, once Waltraud was asleep, he delved deep into the world of sexual cannibalistic fantasy.
In September 1999, he returned home after a day’s work to find his mother had passed away. Waltraud was in her eighties and had suffered a fatal heart attack. Now, Armin was the man of the manor, the master. He was free at last.
Without the obligation to care for his mother or to keep her company, Armin went off the rails for a while. He drank a lot and was often seen at The Blue Moon, a brothel in nearby Rotenburg. But most nights, around closing time, Armin was found asleep at the bar – alone.
The girls who worked at the brothel thought he was somewhat effeminate and suspected that he was gay.
Battling to come to terms with his newfound freedom, Armin withdrew, as he did when he was a child. He retreated into the comfort of his fantasy world. With his mother gone he could actively pursue his obsession – there was a chance that his fantasy could become a reality.
By November 1999, two months after Waltraud’s death, there was no trace of her in the home anymore. Armin renovated the interior of the old house, but he didn’t do a fantastic job. Some rooms were left half-fixed, others gutted and never completed.
In a section of the house that none of his friends ever saw, he built a slaughter room. There was a meat hook in the ceiling and a plastic covered table for butchering purposes.
To make the fantasy more complete, he made human heads from papier mache and hung them from the ceiling. He also hooked mannequin legs on the meat hook, dangling down from the ceiling.
But this wasn’t enough. There was a lot of conversation on the online forum on Cannibal Café and Armin was ready to place his first advertisement. He used the alias ‘Franky’ – a play on the name of his imaginary childhood brother. ‘Franky’ was looking for a handsome young man between 18 and 25 years old, pleasant and physically appealing – not unlike Robinson Crusoe’s Man Friday. His first advertisement, read:
“Are you between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, average built and healthy. Is your desire to end your life, die doing something meaningful – then come to me. I will slaughter you and use your body to make delicious schnitzel and steaks. Interested? Then kindly apply, stating your age, height and weight and preferably send a photo too. Franky.”
The replies came in, but it was slim pickings. So, Armin decided to adjust the age to 30, to widen the search. Astonishingly, the replies came rolling in. He received more than 200 replies and he had to go through a screening process of sorts.
One reply read: “Hello Franky. I've been looking for a seasoned butcher for some time, who could slaughter me and let me bleed out. If you’re interested, here’s my email address…”
Another conversation went like this: “Dear Franky, I have been looking for an experienced butcher, who stuns me like a cop with a nail gun and then lets it bleed and bleed. When do you have time for it?” Armin replied:
“I hope I can cut you up soon. Tell me more about yourself.”
The answer: “Franky, I'm 178cm tall, 78 kg (when I’m naked), black-haired, strong build and healthy. When would you like to slaughter me?”
The first guy he met was a 34-year-old cook, named Joerg Bose. He invited Joerg to his home and took him into the slaughter parlour. Joerg was aroused by the whole idea, but when Armin strung him up on a pulley, the cook felt unwell and said that he did not want to go through with it.
Recording the whole thing on video, Armin then lifted his new friend down and let him go.
It is important to mention that most people were only subscribing to the fantasy of Armin’s request, but some went so far as to meet up with him. He would sometimes met his prospective victims in a hotel room. Every time, they had clear instructions about how they wanted to die.
One wanted to be impaled and roasted on a spit, another one wanted to be killed with a hammer and then slaughtered. But it was the fantasy and preparation that excited them. When they actually met Armin and the reality of death dawned on them, every last one changed their minds. Armin respected this, because in HIS fantasy, the slaughtered person must be 100% willing – he should have no doubt whatsoever.
Then, in January 2001 he came upon a notice on Cannibal Café that intrigued him. The caption was simply: “Dinner”. The notice, posted by ‘Cator’, said:
“I offer to let myself be eaten alive. Who really wants it, needs a genuine victim? No slaughter, but you can eat me.’
The man who posted the notice, was Bernd Brandes, an engineer from Berlin. He was a sexual masochist who wanted his penis to be cut off. Then he wanted to eat it himself, sharing it with his butcher.
Armin Meiwes reached out to Bernd and the two started exchanging emails. Interestingly, they had quite a lot in common. They came from similar backgrounds. When Bernd was only five, his mother committed suicide. His father withdrew from the world and Bernd was a lonely child. When he came out to his father as a bisexual man, their relationship pretty much ended.
Bernd worked for the Siemens Corporation in Berlin. He was known to be a friendly and kind colleague who was well-liked by everyone. After the break-up of a long-term heterosexual relationship he decided it was time to transform himself. His daily gym sessions paid off and he was proud of his hot body at the age of 40.
It was time to find a new lover. He loved surfing the internet and found himself a girl from Nigeria, pretty much mail order bride. But when he went to the airport to pick her up, she never showed. It was a scam and Bernd had lost some money too - 6,000 Deutsche Mark to be exact.
He started a relationship with a local girl, but it didn’t work out because he was constantly online and obsessed with his computer. She didn’t share his passion for the online world and the couple split.
A year before Bernd became embroiled in his online relationship with Armin Meiwes, he moved in with baker René Yasnik. René was the polar opposite to what was going on in Bernd’s mind. He was conservative and reliable, someone you could count on. Unbeknown to René Bernd frequented male prostitutes at the Berlin Zoo train station.
One of his regular lovers from this time, remembered how Bernd loved pain: it turned him on. He particularly wanted the ‘rent boy’ to bite his penis, he also wanted him to cut it off with a knife. Bernd offered the man an enormous amount of money to castrate him, but he just couldn’t do it.
Bernd felt that his fantasy would always remain just that: a dream. He found more and more stimulation from his online companions. But Franky stood out from the others. He understood how serious he was about fulfilling his fantasy. Franky, well Armin Meiwes, sent Bernd nude photos of himself and Bernd did the same.
They discussed their plan in detail, so when Bernd Brandes woke up on the morning of March 9th, 2001, he knew exactly what to do. In the preceding weeks, he had sold his car and updated his will. He cleared the browser history on his computer and deleted all correspondence between himself and Armin.
In preparation for his rendezvous with Armin Meiwes, he also took a day off work, saying he had to attend to a ‘personal matter’. He told his live-in partner, René, that he had to travel for work, and René had no reason to suspect anything else. René was still sleeping when Bernd left home for the last time.
He had no breakfast, as cannibal code requires an empty stomach to make slaughtering easier and the meat tastier.
At Berlin Main train station, Bernd bought a one-way ticket to Kassel, near Wüstefeld. He paid in cash, so the transaction could not be traced. The train journey took just under three hours. What was going through Bernd Brandes’ mind as he watched the scenery flash past on the train ride to his ultimate fantasy and demise?
The 43-year-old Bernd had told Armin he was 36 years old. Armin was 39 at the time. They studied the photos they had sent each other and when Armin waited for Bernd at Kassel Station, they recognised each other immediately. Armin was nervous and excited to see the athletic man wearing a baseball cap, jacket and jeans walking towards him. They didn’t exchange many words, there was no need for it, they both understood what was about to happen.
Armin’s car was ready and waiting and the two men set off to drive the 50 minutes to Armin’s home in Wüstefeld. In the car, Bernd couldn’t contain himself and touched Armin. Foreplay for what was to come, started in the car.
When they arrived at the manor house, Armin made some coffee for his guest, leaving him in the lounge. When Armin returned with the coffee, Bernd was already naked. He showed off his body and said: “Admire your dinner.” Armin found him attractive, he was in good shape, sporty. They went upstairs to the purpose-built slaughter parlour.
After they had sex, Bernd told Armin that he didn’t enjoy it. He told him he was too gentle and tentative.
“You can’t inflict the degree of pain that I want,” he said.
Remember, Bernd was a masochist and revelled in the feeling of pain. For Bernd, being eaten alive would be the ultimate high, euphoria. Disappointed that Armin wasn’t rough enough, he changed his mind about the whole idea and asked his host to drive him back to Kassel Station.
They drove in silence for a while, then Bernd changed his mind again. He went all that way for a reason and decided to see it through. On the way home, the two men stopped to buy sleeping tablets and cold medicine. They then returned to Armin’s home and this time, they were more focussed on working through their fantasies. Armin pressed ‘record’ on his home video camera so that they could watch the castration afterwards.
Although Bernd loved pain, he said that he wanted to be unconscious before Armin removed his genitalia. He drank a bottle of cold medicine, took some sleeping pills and washed them down with a half a bottle of schnapps.
It was early evening, around 6:30pm and Bernd was adequately sedated, but conscious. At first Bernd wanted Armin to bite his penis off, but that did not work. It was time for plan B. Bernd placed his penis on the kitchen table and Armin hacked at it with a kitchen knife.
Again, this was unsuccessful. Then he used a sharper knife. This time, it worked. There was blood everywhere and Bernd was screaming. To Armin’s surprise, the screaming stopped after about 30 seconds.
Bernd said that the pain had strangely subsided – he was disappointed, as he had hoped that it would hurt more. The blood spurting out like a fountain at least gave him some pleasure.
Armin went downstairs to cook Bernd’s penis. He blanched it in boiling water, then fried it in a pan with salt, pepper and garlic powder, but it shrivelled up and burnt.
He took it upstairs to Bernd where both of them attempted to eat the severed penis, but it was too chewy. It didn’t taste as good as they had fantasized it would. In the end, Armin chopped up the penis and fed it to his dog.
As Bernd was bleeding out, they rolled back the video to watch the castration. By 9:30pm, Bernd was cold and close to losing consciousness. He said he wanted to be in a warm bath, so death could be more comfortable.
Armin ran him a bath and helped him in. Bernd spent the following two to three) hours in the tub, slowly fading away. All the while Armin was in a room next door, reading a Star Trek novel. He checked on his guest every 15 minutes. Armin would later recall that Bernd was happy because he was lying in his own blood.
Around midnight, Bernd then called out and said that he wanted to get out of the bath. He managed to get out by himself, but then stumbled and collapsed on the bathroom floor. Armin stepped in and dragged the near-unconscious Bernd to a bedroom.
Once he was settled on the bed in the slaughter room, Bernd told Armin that if he were still alive in the morning, they could feast on his private parts together. He also said:
“Don’t even think about calling an ambulance.”
Throughout the night, Bernd drifted in and out of consciousness. He tried to move but collapsed next to the bed. Armin was with him and thought about what to do next for a long time.
Armin never wanted to kill Bernd. He also didn’t necessarily want to have sex with him. Or share his genitals while he was still alive for that matter. The real thrill for Armin was in the butchering and subsequent eating of human flesh. The rest was done to oblige Bernd’s fantasy.
In the early morning hours, Armin asked himself if he should pray to God or to the Devil. He prayed to God for forgiveness and kissed Bernd on the mouth. Then he took a knife and stabbed him in the neck, twice. By 5am Bernd was dead.
Armin could begin living out the fantasy that had been in his mind for most of his life. He dragged Bernd’s body across the room, hoisted him up and hung him upside down on the meat hook in the ceiling. He then dismembered Bernd’s body, painstakingly slicing him up like a butcher would cut up an animal carcass.
Armin deboned the meat and pulverised the bones. He kept Bernd’s head, minced up the meat and cut up steaks, packaging the meat in meal-size portions to freeze.
He later remembered his first meal, which was served with South African red wine.
“I decorated the table with nice candles. I took out my best dinner service and fried a piece of rump steak – a piece from his back – made what I call princess potatoes, and brussel sprouts. After I prepared my meal, I ate it. The first bite was, of course, very strange. It was a feeling I can’t really describe.
I’d spent over 40 years/30 years longing for it, dreaming about it. And now I was getting the feeling that I was actually achieving this perfect inner connection through his flesh. The flesh tastes like pork but stronger, more substantial. Although I don’t think that other people would have noticed the difference, had they eaten it. It tasted really good. “
Armin Meiwes would consume 45 pounds (or 20 kilograms) of Bernd Brandes’ flesh over a period of 10 months.
Back in Berlin, René Yasnik was concerned when Bernd did not come home and started looking for his partner. He called Bernd’s work and they informed him that Bernd had taken the day off and that there was no work trip. René also saw that Bernd had not withdrawn anything from his bank account and became increasingly concerned.
He reported Bernd’s disappearance to police, but they could not find any trace of the missing engineer. Bernd was so careful to erase all tracks leading to Armin, that it appeared like he had simply dropped off the face of the earth. René had no way of ever finding out about the fate of his partner.
Three months after Bernd’s death, Armin Meiwes was running out of meat and he needed more. He found himself in the same situation as he was before – lonely with a mind full of cannibalistic fantasies.
He needed another participant like Bernd. He became somewhat brazen and posted actual photos of his experience with Bernd online. He wanted to prove to the forum that he was serious. He didn’t think he’ll ever get caught. Armin was more active on Cannibal Café than ever before, boasting about what he had done.
This is when Austrian medical student, Reinhold H, read Armin’s ad. Reinhold realised that he had uncovered something horrific. So, he reported the incident to police. He told them all about the forum where people would offer themselves to be eaten by other humans.
It took police five months to obtain a warrant to search Armin’s Wüstefeld home. In December 2001, police arrived at the dilapidated manor house. They searched the property thoroughly and found a chest freezer. Inside, were frozen cuts of beef and pork. On closer investigation, however, they discovered a false bottom. Below were 35 bags of meal-size portions of unusually coloured and textured meat. Armin quickly intervened and said the meat was from a wild pig.
Nobody believed him. The bags were confiscated for testing. On the expansive grounds of the property police also found skeletal remains: human hands and feet, which was later confirmed through DNA testing to belong to Bernd Brandes. His skull was found near the old stables. On the video recorded on that fatal day, Bernd can be heard joking, instructing Armin to use his skull as an ashtray when they’re done.
Police confiscated Armin’s computer and videos, three knives, an axe and a butcher’s apron. But the videos taken of Bernd’s death was not among the confiscated items. Armin Meiwes had hidden it. So, after a short interview, police realised they did not have enough evidence on Armin, so they let him go.
After the DNA results confirmed Bernd’s identity, police informed his partner about his death. Needless to say, the horror of what had happened to Bernd devastated René Yasnik. The remains that were found in Armin Meiwes’ garden were sent to Berlin and Bernd was cremated. After learning the circumstances of his son’s death, Bernd’s father refused to have anything to do with the funeral. René took charge and arranged a private ceremony in Berlin with a handful of Bernd’s closest friends.
Armin Meiwes knew it was a matter of time before he would be arrested. He went to his lawyer about what had happened with Bernd. His lawyer advised him to confess to police and show them the videotape. He also warned Armin that the media would swoop the story up and it would be big. Armin said that he was ready to face the consequences.
When Armin confessed to ending Bernd’s life to police, he said that Bernd wanted it all – he was a willing participant. Armin only wanted the meat, nothing else. Killing Bernd was a necessary evil to achieve his goal. He admitted that he had probably consumed one third of the body at this point. To support his statement that Bernd was a consenting partner, Armin handed over the videotape of the whole sordid event.
There was a lot of evidence in the case against Armin Meiwes. However, he only pleaded guilty to the assisted suicide of Bernd Brandes, not murder or manslaughter.
This was an unprecedented case and prosecution had to think creatively. You see, technically cannibalism is not illegal in Germany – there is no law against it. Cannibalism is defined as the non-consensual consumption of a human being.
Bernd Brandes consented. Before Armin Meiwes, the last person accused of cannibalism in Germany was a man who ate his victim’s innards after killing him. This claim was never proven, and the man was found guilty of murder.
In court, Armin Meiwes was well presented, always dressed in a suit and had a calm and relaxed demeanour. He would chat to his lawyer and laugh on occasion. He showed no signs of remorse or regret. When it was his turn to testify, he turned on the charm. He maintained that he was not a murderer and that he simply complied to Bernd Brandes’ request to end his life. He honestly believed that he had done nothing wrong.
Armin’s defence pointed out that he was completely in control of his behaviour, he was able to stop when other potential victims, or volunteers would ask him to. He would not engage in any act without consent. That was – after all – part of the fantasy, that the participant wanted it as much as he did.
For the most part, the human flesh eater was smug during his trial, he didn’t seem concerned about the outcome at all. On being caught, he commented:
“If I hadn’t been so stupid as to keep looking on the Internet… I would have taken my secret to the grave.”
The video that was recorded on March 9th, 2001 was shown behind closed doors – a gruelling four hours’ worth of footage. The judges felt it was too unsettling for public display and the jury was only shown 19 minutes of it. Some journalists became physically ill and needed therapy after witnessing this horrid event.
On January 30th, 2004, Armin Meiwes was not found guilty of murder, but instead of the lesser crime of manslaughter. He was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. Armin was outraged and reiterated that Bernd Brandes wanted to die. It was ‘killing by request’, which in Germany carries a maximum sentence of five years.
The German public was not satisfied. Armin Meiwes committed a heinous crime. It was pre-meditated and brutal. Prosecution felt the same an appealed the verdict. On the 22nd of April 2005 the court of appeals reversed judgement in this case. Prosecution could go to trial again, this time to charge him with murder.
According to German law, murder is the act of ending someone’s life motivated by greed, or to satisfy the killer’s own sexual desires, or to cover up another crime. That is exactly why prosecution felt secure in pursuing the murder charge. Their case stated that Armin Meiwes killed Bernd Brandis for his own sexual pleasure.
The case attracted a lot of media attention. Armin was called the Rotenburg Cannibal, The Monster of Rotenburg or Der Metzgermeister (The Master Butcher). The latter was how Armin’s internet alias Franky signed off his messages: “Your Master Butcher.”
Photos of the cannibal smiling, flashing a row of shiny white teeth were splashed on the front covers of multiple newspapers. How could this seemingly-normal man be so deranged? Headlines said, “German Cannibal found willing victims on net” OR “The cannibal next door”. He could have been anyone’s neighbour, computer repairman or friend…
So many issues came to light and were discussed on talk-shows and online forums. It was not only about the morality of cannibalism, but questions around assisted suicide sparked many debates.
The way Armin and Bernd met – online – made people realise that there was another side to surfing the internet. A darker world where people conspired about things that were social taboos. The case opened a can of worms: where does one draw a line when it comes to sadomasochism. How many other cannibals and ‘Hansels’ were actively seeking companionship online? In the course of their investigation, German police estimated that in Germany alone there are in the region of 10,000 people with similar desires.
In 2004, German metal band, Rammstein, released a song about Armin Meiwes called “Mein Teil”. MTV Germany restricted airing the video to after 11:00pm.
All eyes were on proceedings in a Frankfurt court on January 12th, 2006. It was the retrial of Armin Meiwes. Prosecution questioned the defendant about his motive behind killing Bernd Brandes.
Armin stated that he wanted to slaughter and eat someone. He had fantasized about it for most of his life. He admitted that he would watch the video of that night with Bernd repeatedly and masturbate. He would also sometimes watch it, while eating meat from Bernd.
On the video, it is clear that Bernd was still breathing when Armin stabbed him in the neck. Although there was a tremendous loss of blood from the kitchen knife castration, Bernd did not die because of that. It was the injuries inflicted to his neck that ended his life. In order to proceed with his sexual fantasy, Armin killed Bernd, which meant there was intent behind the killing.
In May 2006, Armin Meiwes was convicted of the murder of Bernd Brandes. His sentence changed to life in prison, with a minimum of 15 years served.
In a candid television interview, he said that he now knows that what he did was wrong. He always thought that his fantasy could be more than just a dream, today he says he knows it can never be.
Bernd Brandes was disappointed when his fantasy was turned into reality. And although Armin Meiwes knows renouncing his actions is the right thing to do – he does not seem to regret it. He openly admits that the meat tasted good. He spent months after the incident mulling it over, getting turned on by it. And ultimately, he was actively searching for his next victim when he was found out.
In prison he works in the laundry and sings in the church choir. He writes in a journal and he claims that he wants to show people with similar hidden fantasies “that it can never bring them fulfillment.”
Ironically, it is rumoured that Armin Meiwes has given up meat and has become a vegetarian during his time in prison.
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This was The Evidence Locker. Thank you for listening!