FRANKFURT, Germany – A man who admitted killing and eating an acquaintance he met on the Internet was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison Tuesday, following his retrial in a case that engrossed and appalled Germany.
Armin Meiwes, a 44-year-old computer technician, also was convicted of disturbing the peace of the dead. His lawyers had argued that the Frankfurt state court should instead convict him of the lesser offense of "killing on demand," on the grounds that he was only following his victim's wishes.
The retrial of Meiwes opened in January. It was held after a federal appeals court overturned his initial manslaughter conviction to allow prosecutors to seek a tougher sentence.
At the retrial, Meiwes renewed a detailed confession, telling the court his version of the grisly details of the March 2001 killing of Bernd Juergen Brandes at Meiwes' home in the central town of Rotenburg.
Meiwes said Brandes — who had traveled from Berlin after answering his Internet posting under the pseudonym "Franky" seeking a young man for "slaughter and consumption" — wanted to be stabbed to death after drinking a bottle of cold medicine to lose consciousness. He testified that Brandes, 43, had wanted to "be eaten alive."
"Otherwise, I would never have done it," Meiwes, who captured the killing on video, told the court during the trial.
A doctor had testified that Brandes died from loss of blood and that medication he took beforehand — along with half a bottle of liquor and 20 sleeping pills — could not have lessened his pain.
Meiwes also maintained that Brandes had urged him to carry out further killings after his death.
In convicting Meiwes of murder, the court found Tuesday that he killed to satisfy his sexual urges.
A court-appointed psychiatric expert, Georg Stolpmann, told the trial that he saw "significant danger of a repeat" offense by Meiwes.
Still, the defendant claimed he had hesitated before going through with the act.
"I wanted to eat him — I didn't want to kill him," he told the court.
Before Brandes was killed, the two attempted to eat parts of the man's body together, Meiwes said. He has also said he ate more after the killing.
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 seeking a man willing to be killed and eaten.
In early 2004, a court in the city of Kassel convicted Meiwes of manslaughter and sentenced him to 8 1/2 years in prison, but prosecutors appealed the verdict.
Federal judges overturned the original ruling last year and ordered a retrial, arguing the lower court, in rejecting murder charges, failed to give sufficient consideration to the sexual motive behind the killing.
Meiwes has scored one legal victory, securing a ban by another court on the screening of a film that was inspired by his case.
Judges upheld his claim that the movie — titled "Rohtenburg," in an echo of his hometown's name — detailed events in his private life and infringed his personal rights.