BERLIN-Armin Meiwes, the German computer technician convicted of murdering and consuming a man he met over the internet, will be retried, since many consider his conviction too lenient. The 41-year old man, who claims to have fantasized about cannibalism since early childhood, was convicted of manslaughter in January 2003 and sentenced to eight and one-half years behind bars.
What continues to fascinate the German public about the Meiwes case is that his murder and subsequent consumption of 43 year-old Bernd-Jurgen Brandes was entirely consentual. Indeed, the pair met after Brandes replied to an internet personal ad which explicitly solicited "young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter" in March, 2001.
Though Brandes's former girlfriend claims never to have heard him express an interest in being eaten and insists that "Bernd would never have allowed himself to be killed... it was murder," a videotape recorded by Meiwes and Brandes in the former's Rotenburg home seems to indicate otherwise. In the two-hour film, Brandes allows Meiwes to sever his penis from his body, cook the appendage, and consume it together. After the "meal," if one can call it that, Brandes prepares for his slaughter by drinking a large quantity of alcohol, imbibing cold medicine, and swallowing some twenty sleeping pills. Following the killing, Meiwes prepared the corpse, froze pieces of it, and continued eating Brandes for several months.
Meiwes was only arrested after an Austrian student noticed another ad the man had placed online seeking an arrangement similar to the Brandes situation.
Now, obviously, people have been drawn to the case's shocking nature and Meiwes's calm demeanor (he has granted several interviews, expressed a desire to write his memoirs while in prison, and has warned people to curb their cannibalistic desires lest they end up like him). Of course, the fact that Meiwes informed the German newspaper, Die Welt am Sonntag that he has "intense and positive memories of Bernd" and that "I have his face permanently before me. That's the sign of a friendly relationship," only disturbs people all the more.
One need not be a genius to know that the more extreme the behavior, the farther into the fringes of human behavior a person may plumb, the greater the media interest, but Meiwes's case is particularly fascinating because of its legal implications.