updated 1/6/2007 12:05:22 PM ET 2007-01-06T17:05:22

A French convict who confessed to killing a fellow inmate and said he ripped out the dead man’s heart and ate it is a schizophrenic whose request for isolation was ignored, a lawyer said on Saturday.

Fabien Picchiottino — who said he represents Nicolas Cocaigne, dubbed the “Cannibal of Rouen” by French media — told Reuters his client had been diagnosed as schizophrenic and had asked prison authorities to separate him from other inmates.

“Experts had qualified him as schizophrenic and potentially dangerous,” Picchiottino said. “He had problems with other prisoners. He did not feel well psychologically, and he felt ... that he could be dangerous.”

Picchiottino said Cocaigne was a convicted rapist whose isolation requests to authorities at the prison in the northern French town of Rouen fell on deaf ears.

“The prison director certainly thought it wasn’t necessary and didn’t do it. But unfortunately for him the facts have proved him wrong,” the lawyer said.

Prison authorities were not available for comment.

Saucepan being examined, newspaper says
The body was discovered in a cell Wednesday, with a large wound to the chest. Cocaigne  confessed to the killing and said he had also eaten his victim’s heart.

Investigators initially discounted his claims of cannibalism when they found the victim’s heart intact.

But a state prosecutor said on Friday that an autopsy revealed pieces of muscle from the victim’s rib area and part of his lung were missing and were not found at the crime scene, rendering “the confessions of cannibalism ... very probable.”

French newspaper Le Parisien said parts taken from the body appeared to have been cooked on a small stove and that a saucepan with traces of fat and onions was being examined.

Cocaigne and a third cellmate — who admitted he was not asleep at the time of the crime — would be placed under formal investigation for premeditated murder, the prosecutor said.

The case has been compared to that of German Armin Meiwes, who was sentenced less than a year ago to life in prison for killing and eating a willing victim.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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