Episode 37 | ARMIN MEIWES: CANNIBAL | Germany's Horrific case of Murder and Consumption
Hello and welcome to the true crime podcast homicide Inc. I'm your host Peter von Gomm. Today's story, although it has its romantic undertones, lovers meeting online and the host having his guest for dinner at his farmhouse in a picturesque German village, (there’s a hint in there) it ultimately is a gruesome true crime tale if there ever was one. Like a horror film, the kind that you can’t help but look on and see how it plays out. Be forewarned it’s not for the faint of heart or for anyone under like the age of 70.
The grizzly events of a real-life Hannibal Lector began in March 2001, in the small German town of Wüstefeld. Our main character, Armin Meiwes sat in front of the glowing computer screen. His heart was racing erratically in his chest, his palms sweaty in anticipation. Meiwes couldn’t believe his eyes, someone had actually responded to his advert. After months of gathering his courage, he had posted an ad on the then-active website, (and I’m not making this up) The Cannibal Café looking for someone to eat, on a voluntary basis of course! He had hoped for a quick response as this website was specifically for people with cannibalistic urges and fantasies. Meiwes had obviously not read the small print that had told its members that there was a distinct difference between fantasy and reality, not that this would have stopped him anyway.
His simple message had read: “Looking for a normally-built 18- to 25-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed.” He didn’t mince words. Only his date. We’ll get to that in a jiffy. Meiwes believed that his request was reasonable, and was excited when multiple responses had begun flooding in. There were scores of people who were interested in being slaughtered, yet when they found out he was actually serious they wisely backed out. After a lull of a couple months Meiwes received some promising news, someone had responded to his ad, and this one agreed to meet.
Borg Jose was keen to become Meiwes very first victim. However, things went south very quicky for the aspiring cannibal and while Jose was spread out across the… for lack of a better word, operating table, he suddenly started feeling sick to his stomach and shakily asked Meiwes if they could stop, he wanted to leave. While obviously disappointed Meiwes obliged and let Jose get off the table and leave. Meiwes was a man of his word and would not force anybody to do anything against their will. Say what you will about him, he was always a gentleman. But that didn’t change the disheartening fact that he was back to square one.
Still, Meiwes was a patient man, if he been waiting for this moment since he was 10 years old, he could surely wait a little bit more. Luckily for him he didn’t have to wait long as his dreams came true in the form of Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes. Brandes had enthusiastically responded to the ad saying that as much as Meiwes wanted to eat human flesh, Brandes wanted his flesh to be eaten…alive! They could not have been a more perfect match for one another..
And this is where things get even darker and more twisted.
Brandes reached out to Meiwes on February 14 2001, Valentine’s Day of all days. Forever the romantic, Meiwes knew this had to be a sign from above. His reply had read: “I am 36 years old, 175 cm and weigh 72 kg. I hope you are really serious about it because I really want it.”
It was through a series of graphic and disturbing emails that they agreed to meet up at Meiwes farmhouse in Rotenberg to get things started. It was decided to meet at the farmhouse, which fortunately for both of them was rather isolated. The day before the date, the two exchanged a brief conversation over email. “I’ll bring myself as breakfast!” Brandes wrote. “I'll have an appetite — count on it,” Meiwes had replied. When Brandes had arrived on March 9, he was welcomed warmly into Meiwes home and the two hit it off instantly. They spent the evening chatting, bonding over their dark desires. Brandes hadn’t even minded when Meiwes said that he would be taping the entire evening on his video camera, he was quite pleased and aroused at the thought. Feeling in high spirits, Brandes had made a joke that made Meiwes laugh.
“You could use my skull as an ashtray for your cigarettes!” They both shared a chuckle.
It became apparent to Meiwes as the night went on that Brandes was eager and couldn’t wait to be eaten, while Meiwes played hard to get and wanted to get to know the man, he wanted to establish a connection between the two before they were bonded in life, he wanted to know everything about this most distinguished guest he was about to have for dinner. What a prude.
As the night progressed the two succumbed to their desires and had sex. By then Meiwes had felt that this evening could’nt possibly get any better. While in bed Brandes says that he still didn’t feel satisfied, he wanted to be eaten alive and now. He was tired of waiting, and if the macabre couldn’t get any darker, he too wanted to try eating his own flesh. But when push came to shove and Meiwes led Brandes into the sound-proofed slaughter room, he suddenly changed his mind.
“I can’t do this” He said to Meiwes, “Take me back to the station.” Meiwes was getting irritated now, talk about being snatched from the jaws of victory. But he truly desired a consensual partner, so he drove Brandes back to the station. Just as Brandes was about to step onto the train he swung around and suggested that perhaps with a large dose of alcohol and drugs he would be able to go through with it. It was game on AGAIN and this time there would be no going back for Brandes if Meiwes had any say in the matter. And he did. Happy with their decision they hurriedly drove back to the farmhouse.
Meiwes grew excited and nervous, it was time. Because he had a heart and to ensure his friend wouldn’t feel excessive amounts of pain Meiwes gave his dinner guest a hand full of sleeping tablets- Brandes washed them down with a whole bottle of Vicks cough syrup and a shot or two of Schnapps for good measure. This combo of drugs and drink would surely numb the pain. Brandes excitedly suggested they start with his penis. Damn.
“Go on.” He insisted, “You can bite it off.”
But Meiwes couldn’t, it proved to be too difficult and instead he went and grabbed the first knife he could find, when that knife proved too small, he swapped it with a larger one and carried out the gruesome amputation. When he had finally finished and removed Brandes appendage from his body, Brandes had grown very quiet, it appeared the medication was starting to work. He then prepared Brandes’ severed baby maker into thin slices, like one would a spicy salami. Brandes perked up a bit and insisted on trying a piece uncooked. After a few bites he complained to Meiwes that it was too chewey.
Meiwes then suggested that he cook it and add some spices, Brandes agreed. Meiwes set off to work in the kitchen, as Brandes began to wilt in his seat, most likely from the loss of blood and will to live any longer. Things were abuzz in the kitchen as Meiwes sauteed the slices of meat with garlic and onions, the aromas were tantalising according to Meiwes.
Meiwes placed the steaming plate in front of Brandes, who tentatively took a small bite and gave a low mumble. Sensing that his partner was slipping into sleep, Meiwes guided a barely conscious Brandes to the small bathroom and gently placed him into the warm bath he had prepared. A hopeless romantic this guy! It was here Meiwes was certain he would welcome Brandes’ death. Over email they had made a deal that Meiwes was to let Brandes die slowly, to take his time and enjoy death. Meiwes again patiently waited for his friend to slip away peacefully as he sat beside the tub, his legs crossed reading his Star Trek comic, he was in no rush.
However, his feelings began to change, and his patience had begun to wear thin as hours later into the morning Brandes was still alive. Meiwes placed his head against his chest. He was still breathing.
He knew what he had to do next, as much as it pained him to break a promise. Gathering himself, he lifted his head and placed a gentle kiss upon his lover’s forehead.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered before plunging his sharp knife into the soft part of Brandes neck, over and over again until the water in the tub had changed colour. Wiping his hands he went back into the kitchen, took the plate of food, now cold, and placed it on the floor, for the dog to eat. Controlling his excitement and nerves, he removed Brandes from the bathroom and placed him in the “Slaughterhouse”.
This room had been purpose-built for the unspeakable. It was a small the room with a table and one big shiny meat hook hanging from the rafters, this is where Brandes would hang, like a side of beef.
Now, we won’t go into too much detail on what happens next, we’ll let you use your own imagination to picture the gory bits. If you have ever been in the back of your local butchery, then you probably have a pretty good idea of what Meiwes had to do to Brandes, thankfully the man was not alive either. At this point we’re not too sure which is more disturbing, feeding the dog human meat or wanting to eat your own flesh. Before we digress any further let’s get back into what happens next.
When Meiwes had finished butchering the body, a skill he acquired from butchers demonstrating their craft on YouTube videos, he started on his next job. With the bones set aside, he started up his meat grinder and slowly fed them through the machine. He was going to make an all-purpose flour from the bones. Folks this guy was sick and twisted. There was only one snag, the machine was too small. Now what!?.
Ultimately he had gotten what he needed and had set out to achieve. Brandes’ flesh was sectioned and stored in Tupperware containers in the freezer, the bones he ground up as small as he could. He was efficient - there was not much left of a body to get rid of. With that part behind him all that was left is to have some dinner.
After cleaning up the slaughter room, Meiwes entered the kitchen, Tupperware in hand, and his mind on what to cook. If anyone had peered through the window that evening, they would have seen a rather cosy scene, never suspecting the horrific events that had transpired there earlier. A young man seated at the table that was set with candles, red wine and the finest of tableware. The warm golden glow of the candlelight illuminated the food on the dinner plate, on it a large piece of steak, courtesy of Brandes broad back. A consensual and unspeakable pact between lovers. But the question remains, was it murder or assisted suicide?
Armin Meiwes leaned back in his chair and sighed with content, his stomach and heart were full, he had done it.
This night would forever stay in Meiwes mind, and ours.
We warned you it was twisted.
At that point no one had noticed anything strange or out of the ordinary, nor had anyone come looking for Bernd Brandes or reported him missing, leading Meiwes to believe that he had gotten away with killing, butchering and consuming another human being. Months passed, and life had gotten back to mostly normal, Meiwes had continued to feed on his stash of Brandes stored in the freezer, but by the time the tenth month rolled in, his stock was running low, and Meiwes needed more. And not just more flesh to feed on but more of the intense high he experienced with his first kill and consumption.
With the success of his first victim and the ease in which the experience occurred, Meiwes posted another advert on the internet looking for a willing volunteer. Feeling overconfident he had also posted more information of his previous victim, revealing what he had done and how he had done it. He had immense pride in his act. Unfortunately for Meiwes, and fortunately for humanity, things didn’t quite work out in his favour this time around. A college student from Innsbruck, Austria, had seen the adverts and comments about the death of Brandes and reported it to local police, it was December 2002.
The police arrived at Meiwes farmhouse and take a look inside, upon entrance things looked normal, Meiwes too appeared straight. But the deeper into the house they searched, the horror of what had taken place began to unravel. The videotape that Meiwes had used to record was found, he probably kept if to relive that night over again. The flesh he consumed over the course of several months was indeed exhilarating but the recorded encounter, THAT was his trophy.
When they searched the freezer, they found that it had a false bottom, and underneath that they found frozen meat. Meiwes claimed that it was in fact cuts from a wild pig- because most people HIDE their wild pig cuts. Right. The police after finding the tape and receiving the tip-off knew better.
The final nail in Armin Meiwes coffin had been sealed shut. The investigating police also discovered:
the horrifying slaughter room in which Brandes was butchered
a video camera,
and a butcher's apron.
Interestingly Meiwes actually confessed to killing and eating Brandes. Without any hesitation, they arrested him on the spot. It was 11 December 2002.
The actual sentencing wasn’t for another 7 months as police and lawyers sifted through all the evidence, and there was a lot of it, to build a case before going into court. It was during these 7 months that police began to get a clearer picture of who Armin Meiwes actually was. As much as they wanted to know, they NEEDED to know who this man was that killed and ate his lover? What drove him to this point, to commit such a sickening act.
Meiwes was born on 1 December 1961 in the city of Essen, West Germany, he was an only child of his mother Waltrud but had two half-brothers from his father’s earlier relationship. Growing up Meiwes had a pleasant, normal life with is family. During the weekends and holidays the family would go up to their isolated vacation home, a farm house in Rotenberg, the same place he would later commit this most heinous act. He’s said to have been a normal child, he enjoyed playing outside, exploring the outdoors and had a love for animals. Unbeknownst to everyone, he also had a love for something much more sinister, the desire for flesh.
This idyllic lifestyle shattered when his father walked out on the family at the end of summer in 1969, leaving young Meiwes heartbroken and traumatised. His mother now had three failed marriages, they were teetering on the brink of destitution and as a result withdrew completely into herself, clinging to Meiwes all the way. According to reports Waltrud would make the two of them dress up in medieval costumes and play pretend, she controlled every aspect of Meiwes life, including his dreams and desires.
This became all too much for the 8 year old Meiwes. To cope and to ward off his desperate loneliness, he brought to life an imaginary friend, Franky. Franky was like a younger brother to him, he actually listened to what Meiwes had to say, unlike his mother, and that’s when things began to take a dark turn in the wrong direction. He had begun to develop romantic feelings towards Franky as well as other boys, these dark desires had started to take hold of his mind. He craved love, intimacy. But not in the way society provides, he expressed his cannibalistic thoughts to Franky. He believed that ultimate intimacy and closeness could only be achieved through eating the person, so they would forever be a part of him, and his loneliness would finally leave him.
By the age of 12 Meiwes had started to fantasize what it would be like to eat his friends, what would they taste like and how he would do it. During one of his many interrogations with police in 2003, he explained the moment when he truly felt the need to eat human flesh.
Quote: “I was 10 or 11, I saw Sandy from the television series Flipper and imagined how nice it would be to have him in me,” He went on to say, “I think that, at this age, my wish to be a cannibal was already well-developed.” According to his father, Meiwes was fascinated with the story of Hansel and Gretel, which isn’t that surprising considering that both the children end up being eaten!
Years later as Meiwes was in a brief relationship with a woman named Patra, he continued to have these thoughts. He went on to join the army where he excelled, earning promotion after promotion until 1996 when his mother was involved in a serious accident and Meiwes was sucked back into her toxic environment as caregiver. This took a massive toll on his mental health. Finally in 1999 his mother passed away and Meiwes was free to live his own life again.
His new life meant that he could now explore the internet for pornography. Because of his career as a computer technician, he knew his way around the web and found himself spending hours roaming cyberspace. He particularly enjoyed scenes of violence and torture, zombie films and eventually he found himself upon a forum for people with cannibalistic desires and disturbing fetishes. At first, he was merely a reluctant spectator, but it wasn’t long before he too became engrossed in the topics, sharing his hopes and desires.
For a long time Meiwes lived a double life, on the outside he appeared a normal guy as numerous reports and interviews with witnesses would lead us to believe. The friendly computer technician that socialised with friends, hosted dinner parties and participated in recreational activities like horse-riding. The kind and helpful neighbor always eager to lend a hand. In one interview with his next door neighbour, she said quote “The children loved to meet him and spent a great time with him. I trusted him absolutely, and even then, after all that happened, I would still entrust him with my children at any moment." Uh,… Well, I’m not sure I would let a dude who killed and ate his lover babysit MY kids… When details of the case emerged in the media, people were shocked, he was such a “normal” guy, how did he fly under the radar for so long and no one notice this! Others were simply fascinated by the macabre case.
Throughout the investigation police discover that there were more men before Brandes. A number of men had advertised that they wanted to be eaten on the forum and Meiwes had reached out to make appointments with them. Some wanted to enjoy a role play game, where Meiwes would pretend to eat him while the other wanted Meiwes to pin labels on each body part. However, none of these men specifically gave permission or consent, Meiwes was stumped. Then along came Bernd Brandes.
Bernd Jurgen Armando Brandes was a middle-aged engineer from Berlin, and like Meiwes had also had a pretty traumatic experience growing up. When he was 5 his mother committed suicide leaving him in the care of his father who never accepted that Brandes was gay. As Brandes grew up, he started to develop a fascination with pain and pleasure. It seems that Brandes like to frequent the prostitutes at the Berlin Railroad Station, one man named Jimmy F, said that Brandes liked to feel pain and was very physical. Mutilation was something he was obsessed with. At one-point Brandes had begged Jimmy to bite his penis off, offering him a large sum of money and his personal possessions. Something echoed in his interactions with Meiwes. It seems Brandes was the perfect match for our cannibal Meiwes; his response to Meiwes’ advertisement was titled, “Something like Dinner - Your dinner.”
Like Meiwes, Brandes also appeared to live a normal life on the outside, hiding his deviances tucked away from society. He worked as an engineer, employed in a managerial position at a huge tech company Siemens AG.
In court Meiwes had the opportunity to explain why he did this, and his explanation was quite sombre: “Rather than say, ‘I love you’, I would have had to say, ‘I’d like to have a slice of you’.”
He explained, that with each bite of Brandes flesh they formed an intimate connection, and he would forever exist inside him. To Meiwes this was the ultimate expression of love for someone and his greatest sexual desire, to consume.
Finally in 2003 when Meiwes’ trial began, prosecutors assigned to his case hit a major stumbling block, cannibalism technically was not illegal in Germany at the time. This is perhaps because it was such a taboo topic and by making it illegal, they would have to discuss the evidence in detail in a court room. And that is ultimately what happened during the Meiwes case. The four hour long video tape that had captured every gruesome detail of the heinous act could only be played for a total of 19 minutes as it was simply too disturbing. A number of those in attendance at the trial sought counseling after in order to deal with what they saw on the video. Because they couldn’t charge him with consuming human flesh as a crime and his victim, according to the facts, was a willing participant in the contract; to be killed and eaten. Brandes was fully aware of Meiwes intentions, the evidence in the tapes backed this up. Prosecutors had to charge him with something else.
During his testimony Meiwes had expressed regret for his actions and the way Brandes life had ended, this confession led court psychiatrists to prove that he wasn’t suffering from any mental illness and was fit to stand trial. When deciding what to charge Meiwes with, the prosecution pushed for life imprisonment under the conditions in which Brandes died. His crimes were: “sexually motivated murder and disturbance of the peace of the deceased.” While the defense argued against this charge, they asked for the court to convict Meiwes with “Murder with consent of the victim.” A significantly shorter sentence than life imprisonment.
After much deliberation Armin Meiwes was sentenced to 8 and a half years in prison for manslaughter on 30 January 2004. However, after such a strong outcry from the media and the public, for many believed this conviction was far too lenient, his retrial began in January 2006. Prosecutors had found flaws in the argument that Brandes was a willing victim, they argued that he was intoxicated and unable to make decisions at that point, this was the turning point in the outcome of the case. Ultimately the court decided Meiwes deserved a harsher punishment and ultimately sentenced him to life in prison on 6 May 2006. The only outcry now was coming from fellow cannibals unsettled at such a harsh sentence. Meiwes earned the title of being the first German Cannibal to be sentenced to life in prison.
Nowadays the Rotenberg Cannibal spends his time in prison reading and walking the prison grounds and working on his autobiography. That will be one hell of a read! He has also assisted police with another suspected cannibal murder case in 2007. According to some reports he has made a dietary U-turn in prison and has become a vegetarian. I’ve got no beef with that!
In Germany, life imprisonment has an indeterminate length and Meiwes can apply for parole after having served 15 years- which is not too long from now. Note to self, delete profile from all German cannibal sites.