Cannibalism Case Revisited Book Uncovers Secrets of Maneater Meiwes
Forensic expert Manfred Risse will never forget the day he was called to examine the contents of Armin Meiwes' freezer. The German cannibal had killed a man who had begged to be devoured, chopped him up into meal-sized portions, and eaten about 20 kilos (44 pounds) of him.
The 2002 killing and subsequent trials made global headlines, and Meiwes is assured a prominent place in the dark annals of murderous perversion. Risse, 53, deputy head of the forensic institute in the central German city of Giessen, has just written a book about the case and has spoken about it for the first time in an interview with Focus magazine.
About examining a severed foot, Risse writes: "Meiwes had placed it on a plate, stuck a knife and fork in it, added sauce, took a picture of it and posted it on the Internet." Risse also had to scrutinize around 30 packets of flesh, some of them labelled. "One read 'Neck Filet, 10/03/01,' and other labels reminded me of supermarket labels, for example 'Minced Meat With Sauce.'"
Risse recalls the horror he felt when he watched the four-and-a-half hour video Meiwes made of the killing and subsequent butchering.
"I got sweaty hands for the first time in my career; shivers ran down my spine" said Risse. "I've been doing this job for 20 years, have carried out 5,000 autopsies and seen more than 30,000 corpses. In terms of nauseating and repugnant sights, the cannibal film burst the boundaries of what I had seen to that date."
Meiwes, a computer repair man, had placed advertisements on the Internet seeking men who were willing to be "slaughtered." Bernd Brandes, a 43-year-old computer engineer from Berlin, responded, and the killing took place in Meiwes' rambling half-timbered house in the town of Rotenburg.
The infamous video was shown in court, but the media and public weren't allowed to see it. One scene shows Brandes, already suffering from severe loss of blood after having his penis severed at his own insistence, saying: "If I'm still alive tomorrow morning, we'll eat my balls."
"It was a horrific scene," recalls Risse. "I couldn't believe that a man so seriously hurt could say a thing like that. It sounded like a bad comedy. But it was real."
The video also shows Meiwes hanging up the body from a meat hook and cutting it up. "It was evident that Meiwes had no anatomical knowledge whatsoever. He couldn't distinguish between the colon and the small intestine, didn't know where the liver was and was astonished at the color of the meat. He said: 'I thought it would be lighter. One learns from experience.'"
Risse's book "Last Supper of the Murderers," which can only be sold to adults, goes on sale in Germany on Sept. 20. He said he wrote it to show the public what really happened. "There's always been cannibalism," Risse said. "But the fact that someone wanted to have themselves be killed, slaughtered and devoured, is unique in the world."
Meiwes had his sentence increased from eight and a half years to life in a 2006 retrial after the prosecution appealed against the initial verdict for being too lenient.