Story transcripts

The Cannibal

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reporter: Tara Brown

Producer: Robert Stein-Rostaing

If you saw him in the street, he wouldn't rate a second glance. He looks so ordinary. But he's not.

Armin Meiwes is a cannibal.

In March 2001, he killed a man and ate him with a glass of fine red wine.

A crime so bizarre it horrified and mystified the world. You see, Meiwes' victim was a willing accomplice, he actually wanted to be eaten.

A rare case of what they call "love cannibalism".

Now you're going to meet this quiet, unassuming man who became a monster. For the first time, he'll tell his chilling story.


Full transcript:


TARA BROWN: Armin Meiwes is a cannibal. In March 2001, he killed a man and ate him with a glass of fine red wine. A crime so bizarre, it horrified and mystified the world. You see, Meiwes' victim was a willing accomplice, he actually wanted to be eaten. A rare case of what they call "love cannibalism". Now you're going to meet this quiet, unassuming man who became a monster. For the first time, he'll tell his chilling story. And at times I should warn that it is quite graphic and could Armin Meiwes is 46. A quiet, polite man who grew up in a loving family in a small town in Germany. But make no mistake. He is also a modern-day monster. His crime so horrific, there were no laws to cover it, no words in medical journals to describe his mental state.

ARMIN MEIWES: My name Armin Meiwes. I was born 1961. I am a computer engineer from Rotenburg, Germany. I killed a man, slaughtered him and ate him. Since then, he is always with me.

TARA BROWN: On the morning of December 10, 2002, police in Rotenburg, Germany, acting on a tip-off, raided this isolated farmhouse. In the kitchen, they found a freezer with a false bottom, concealing what Meiwes claimed were packets of wild pig. But it wasn't wild pig. It was the flesh of this man - Bernd Brandes. There was no disputing what Meiwes had done and he never denied it.

ARMIN MEIWES: When the body has to be eaten, it has to be dead. That's clear. It tastes like pork, bit more harsh, substantial. A Frankfurt court found Meiwes guilty of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. And now, in an unprecedented interview from his jail cell, Meiwes gives a chilling account of that terrible night. Also for first time, Meiwes's lawyer, Harald Ermel reveals the crime scene itself.

HARALD ERMEL: We are coming to the slaughter room.

TARA BROWN: The house where Meiwes slaughtered his victim - and dined on the flesh.

HARALD ERMEL: He eat the flesh, as steak or as beef with red wine and potatoes and it was very important for Mr Meiwes to eat it.

TARA BROWN: Eight years ago, Armin Meiwes posted an advertisement on the Internet. He made contact with Bernd Brandes, an engineer from Berlin - they found they had a bond. Meiwes wanted to eat a man, Brandes wanted to be eaten.

ARMIN MEIWES: We'd been emailing and chatting on the Internet since January, and we'd talked about exactly what would happen.

TARA BROWN: This was what Meiwes had craved all his life. A man of the 21st century who harboured the primitive instincts of a cannibal.

GUNTER STAMPF: Armin Meiwes is a very good example of a man who lived a double life.

TARA BROWN: Gunter Stampf is a journalist who regularly visits Meiwers in jail and has gained a unique insight into his background.

GUNTER STAMPF: He went on sailing trips with his friends. He was a very normal neighbour. On the other hand, he was a monster in the media who was dining on human flesh.

TARA BROWN: But Meiwes hardly had the makings of a monster. Speaking through a translator in his native tongue of German, he describes the ideal surroundings of his childhood.

ARMIN MEIWES: We'd build tree houses, play cops and robbers and Indians, everything that was fun. Or we'd chop down trees. It was lovely, really.

TARA BROWN: But Meiwes's carefree existence was shattered when, without warning, his father deserted him and his mother. It was a critical turning point. The young Meiwes retreated into a fantasy world and invented imaginary friends to keep him company. But it wasn't enough. He wanted to feel more connected to these friends it was amazing. that they should be part of him. And so began his deadly obsession.

ARMIN MEIWES: And then I thought that if they were to become a part of me, I'd have to eat them.

GUNTER STAMPF: When he hit puberty, he had the same crushes as other boys did. But he found it difficult to form relationships. And these crushes developed into something more - the desire to eat someone so that they're always with him.

TARA BROWN: But even in his fantasies, Meiwes wanted his victim to be a willing partner.

ARMIN MEIWES: He had to go into this inner connection willingly - it couldn't have been possible any other way. He had to practically sacrifice his life, so that he could carry on living in me - that was how I saw it anyway.

TARA BROWN: His obsession grew, but remained an unattainable dream. Until his mother died. pause Free of her domineering influence, Meiwes could fully indulge his cannibalistic fantasy.

ARMIN MEIWES: Around this time, I'd somehow stumbled on cannibal sites, cannibal chat rooms. I took a good look at them, and thought they were just fantasy. But there are so many ads, you couldn't believe it. There were people offering themselves to be eaten, and were looking for people to eat them.

GUNTER STAMPF: When Meiwes told me about other people he met, before Brandes, his victim, and after, his victim, I was really shocked. There were people who wanted to be barbecued like a chicken, hit with a hammer and then slaughtered.

TARA BROWN: But none of them was suitable. None of them willing to see it though. Then along came Brandes.

ARMIN MEIWES: Bernd Brandes, I'd replied to an ad he put on the Internet. The strapline was "dinner" or "your dinner". And the text was - "I am offering you the chance to eat me alive." Who really wants it, needs a genuine victim.

TARA BROWN: In Bernd Brandes, Meiwes had found his ideal victim - someone whose fantasies provided the perfect counterpoint to his own. In March 2001, Meiwes met Brandes at a train station near Rotenburg and drove him home.

ARMIN MEIWES: We arrived home, and he went straight into the living room and undressed. So that I could admire dinner, or my dinner, he said.

HARALD ERMEL: He came into the house with Brandes. From here, they went through the hall into the dining room. Then through the living room and straight into the winter garden. The winter garden faces the street. At the time of the deed, this terrible deed, the shutters were open, and Brandes started to undress.

ARMIN MEIWES: He looked good. He had a sporty figure, as I'd imagined. He was a very nice, lovely man.

HARALD ERMEL: Then the two came this way, upstairs to the second floor, to the so-called 'slaughter room', where later the terrible deed took place.

ARMIN MEIWES: He wanted to experience the ultimate high, and for him that was to be eaten alive. That, for him, would be ultimate bliss.

TARA BROWN: The men made a diabolical pact. Meiwes would cut off parts of Brandes body, while he was still conscious. It was agreed they would film the entire episode. The result was so shocking that police have now locked away the video - never to be released.

ARMIN MEIWES: We'd discussed everything beforehand, including the camera, which should be switched on because he wanted to see for himself, what it was like when we did the amputation.

HARALD ERMEL: He wanted to experience pain that was so bad it would kill him - pain that would destroy him. Obviously, he yelled. He was standing at the table and he sprang backwards. The blood was spurting out, and after 30 seconds, he stopped yelling, and said, "It doesn't hurt any more."

TARA BROWN: But the wound wasn't enough to kill Brandes and Meiwes hesitated over what to do next.

ARMIN MEIWES: I prayed. At that moment, I didn't know what to do. I asked myself whether I should pray to the Devil, or God? And I asked God for forgiveness. Then I took the knife, grasped it in my hand, and after hesitating some more, I cut his throat with it. pause Then in the slaughter room, after he was dead, I separated the head from his body. I hung him from the ceiling. Then I removed his organs and cut him in half. I poured hot water over the two halves and washed the body.

HARALD ERMEL: It was on this table that Meiwes ate parts of Brandes. He took his good dinner service from this cupboard at the back here and put it on the table. He lit candles, took out a good bottle of red wine, prepared the meal then he ate parts of Brandes.

ARMIN MEIWES: The first bite was, of course, very strange. It was a feeling I can't really describe. I'd spent over 40 years, 30 years longing for it, dreaming about it, and now I was getting the feeling that I was actually achieving this perfect inner connection through his flesh. Flesh tastes like pork, but stronger, more substantial, although I don't think that other people would have noticed a difference, had they eaten it. It tasted really good.

TARA BROWN: Over a period of months, he consumed 20 kilos of the flesh. All the while, continuing to searching the Internet for more willing victims. Until, a young Austrian student became suspicious and alerted authorities. Five months later, dozens of police swooped on Meiwes' farmhouse to search the property.

GUNTER STAMPF: There was a policewoman within the troupe, and she asked Meiwes, "What kind of meat do you have in the fridge?" And he said, "No, this is just normal meat, animal meat." And she looked at him and said, "You know, I'm a housewife - I know this is not normal meat."

TARA BROWN: The case posed a legal dilemma. There is no German law against cannibalism and Brandes was clearly a willing victim. Meiwes was initially convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to only 8.5 years in prison. But a retrial convicted him of murder and he was sentenced to life in jail. But even now, no-one can be sure that Meiwes regrets his crime.

GUNTER STAMPF: I think 'regret' is too strong a word for Meiwes. He is starting to realise what he did was wrong. It's a slow process. I did not feel that he really regret the slaughtering and eating of Brandes deeply.

ARMIN MEIWES: Today I know that what I did was wrong. That this can never be the right way. The wishes, the fantasies you have, that these can never ever be fulfilled. And everything that you dream about will only ever remain a dream. What I did, even after I'd done it, I always thought it could be more than just a dream. Today I know that it can never be.

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