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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 22:29 GMT
Frenzy builds for German 'cannibal' trial

By Ray Furlong
BBC correspondent in Berlin

Armin Meiwes
Meiwes' case has grabbed attention because of the legal difficulties it creates

Germans have been both repulsed and irresistibly attracted by the story of Armin Meiwes, this country's first recorded cannibal, ever since the news broke about his unique and bizarre alleged crime.

And the excitement in the media has increased in the final days leading up to the trial which is due to begin on Wednesday.

Perhaps the biggest scoop fell to Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper which, incredibly, claimed to have gained an interview with Mr Meiwes himself.

"I have intense and positive memories of Bernd [the victim]," he was quoted as saying by the paper.

"And I don't need to have anyone else inside me."

Wave of interest

In a further spine-chilling comment, he was cited as saying: "I have his face permanently before me. That's the sign of a friendly relationship."

The defence's line will be that the victim wanted to be treated like this, that it was his own wish to be killed
Felix Hardenberg
Berlin lawyer
The paper also reported that he received many visitors and went for a walk for an hour a day, as he awaited his judgement.

Meanwhile, a German television station ran an interview with a former girlfriend of the victim - who said she had no inkling of his wish to be eaten.

"We had a normal sex life," she said.

"Bernd would never have allowed himself to be killed... it was murder."

Artur Kreuzer, one of Germany's leading criminal psychologists, has a ready explanation for the wave of interest in the case.

"We thought there was a strong taboo against cannibalism. It was reality in tribes, in former stages of human development," he says.

"But now we see that this taboo is weaker than we thought."

Legal difficulties

The case has also grabbed attention because of the legal difficulties it encompasses - cannibalism is not on the German law books and the apparent willingness of the victim to die is an added complication.

Brandes' body is taken out of Meiwes' home
Meiwes reportedly taped the entire grisly event on video recorder
"The defence's line will be that the victim wanted to be treated like this, that it was his own wish to be killed," says Berlin lawyer Felix Hardenberg.

"Therefore they'll try to get the defendant a lighter sentence - a maximum of five years, with the chance that he'll be let out after three years on probation."

Of course, the prosecution will argue that Mr Meiwes deserves a life sentence on the grounds that he is just too dangerous to ever be released, and anything less would certainly cause a huge scandal.

'Memoirs'

So the case will be closely watched, the courtroom packed with journalists.

And among the "highlights" will be the two-hour video that Mr Meiwes took of the whole thing on his camcorder.

"The public probably won't be excluded from this part of proceedings, we have a tradition of open trials," says Mr Hardenberg.

"But the panel of judges will only show the relevant parts: what the victim is saying and doing before and during the killing."

Mr Meiwes has said that after his trial he intends to pass the time in jail - if convicted - by writing his memoirs.

Judging by the interest his grisly case has provoked here, they could turn out to be a bestseller.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Ray Furlong reports from Berlin
"Judges will find it hard to resist the clamour to jail him for life"



SEE ALSO:
Cannibalism: A modern taboo
02 Dec 03  |  Europe
The real Hannibal Lecters
16 Feb 01  |  Entertainment


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