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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 17:02 GMT
Manslaughter verdict for cannibal
Armin Meiwes (R) shakes hand of his defence lawyer Harald Ermel
Meiwes may leave prison early for good behaviour
A German court has convicted self-confessed cannibal Armin Meiwes of manslaughter and sentenced him to eight years and six months in prison.

Meiwes, 42, admitted killing and eating Bernd Juergen Brandes after sex and hours of sado-masochism but insisted his victim had volunteered.

It has been Germany's most sensational trial for decades.

The verdict falls well short of the prosecution's demand for a 15-year sentence for sexual murder.

They were two deeply psychologically disturbed people who both wanted something from the other
Judge Volker Muetze

The defence had sought a verdict of illegal euthanasia, carrying a far shorter sentence of six months to five years, on the grounds that it had been a "killing on request".

But while rejecting the defence's argument, the court also ruled that Meiwes had had no "base motives" for the crime and settled on a manslaughter verdict.

"Both were looking for the ultimate kick," Judge Volker Muetze told a packed courtroom.

"This was an act between two extremely disturbed people who both wanted something from each other."

Meiwes had not, the judge said, committed a murder in the legal sense "but a behaviour which is condemned in our society - namely the killing and butchering of a human being".

"Seen legally, this is manslaughter, killing a person without being a murderer," he added.

Video killing

Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Meiwes sat impassively as the verdict was read out in court.

The Meiwes house in Rotenburg
Meiwes had a "slaughtering room" in his huge house
The BBC's Ray Furlong says the verdict is a good result for Meiwes.

His lawyer described him as a "model prisoner", and said he could be released on good behaviour by 2008.

Prosecutors say they will appeal against the verdict.

The computer technician killed and ate Brandes three years ago, after placing an advert on the internet.

He told the court in Kassel that it was the realisation of a dream he had had since his school days - when he fantasised about consuming classmates.

Despite this, psychologists said he was mentally fit to stand trial.

His victim, also in his 40s, bought a one-way ticket to the defendant's home village and spent an evening with him, before volunteering to be killed.

Memoirs

The defence had argued that the crime was a form of mercy killing but the prosecution said this did not apply because the victim had been mentally disturbed.

Bernd-Juergen Brandes
Brandes "asked to be stabbed to death," according to Meiwes

A psychiatrist who testified at the trial said Meiwes had a "schizoid personality" but was not mentally ill.

Investigators found he had been in internet contact with more than 200 people who shared his fantasies.

Meiwes has said he plans to write his memoirs in order to persuade other people with similar fantasies to seek help in time.

Meiwes ate the flesh of Brandes over several months, defrosting cuts from his freezer.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"Charming and intelligent, he's been described as a German Hannibal Lecter"



SEE ALSO:
Profile: Cannibal Armin Meiwes
30 Jan 04  |  Europe
Murky world of net cannibalism
30 Jan 04  |  Europe
Cannibal 'wanted to get married'
09 Jan 04  |  Europe
Cannibal 'sought other victims'
08 Dec 03  |  Europe
Cannibalism: A modern taboo
02 Dec 03  |  Europe


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