German cannibal sentenced to 8 1/2 years

Armin Meiwes in a German court in December.Uwe Zucchi / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A German who confessed to killing, dismembering and eating another man was convicted Friday of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison.

A state court ruled that Armin Meiwes, a 42-year-old computer expert who met his victim on the Internet, had no "base motives" in the crime -- sparing him a murder conviction.

Prosecutors called Meiwes a "human butcher" who acted simply to "satisfy a sexual impulse" and had sought a life sentence for murder.

His defense argued that since the victim had volunteered to be killed and eaten, the crime should be classified a mercy killing, which carries a five-year maximum penalty.

Before the verdict Meiwes looked calm, chatting with his attorney and occasionally grinning for cameras allowed inside the courtroom before the session began.

When his trial opened Dec. 3 in the central city of Kassel, Meiwes confessed in detail to the March 2001 killing of 43-year-old Bernd Juergen Brandes at Meiwes' home in the nearby town of Rotenburg.

An undated police handout photo shows 42-year-old Berlin citizen Bernd-Juergen B, who was murdered in the spring 2000, by Armin Meiwes, the German computer expert who gained worldwide notoriety by killing and eating his willing victim. Meiwes' trial began on December 3, 2003 in a case of sexually inspired cannibalism so perplexing it could make legal history. EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/Police HOX80001

Brandes traveled from Berlin in reply to an Internet advertisement seeking a young man for "slaughter and consumption." Meiwes testified that Brandes wanted to be stabbed to death after drinking a bottle of cold medicine to lose consciousness.

"Bernd came to me of his own free will to end his life," Meiwes said in his closing statement in court Monday. "For him, it was a nice death."

Still, he said he regretted the killing.

"I had my big kick and I don't need to do it again," he said. "I regret it all very much, but I can't undo it."

A grisly video he made of the act was shown to the court during a closed session.

A doctor testified that Brandes died from loss of blood and that the medication, along with a half-bottle of liquor and 20 sleeping pills he took beforehand, could not have lessened his pain.

Several experts have testified that Meiwes was fit to stand trial and was not mentally ill.

Police tracked down and arrested Meiwes in December 2002 after a student in Austria alerted them to a message Meiwes had posted on the Internet.

"If I hadn't been so stupid as to keep looking on the Internet, I would have taken my secret to the grave," Meiwes said in his closing statement.