In 2002, German cannibal Armin Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to over eight years in prison for killing, dismembering and eating another man.
Most of us have heard of this fellow and what he did with Bernd Brandes, so watching ‘Interview With A Cannibal’ on Channel Five was, on the face of it, no more than one’s own voyeurism taking advantage of the channel’s tendency to sensationalise events.
As the programme trundled inevitably towards the ‘good bits’ I was surprised that Five had made some effort to explain why on earth the man might have a vibrant fetish for the consumption of human flesh. Putting it bluntly, his dad left the homestead when he was nipper, his domineering mum remarried three times to rotten types, all of whom nicked her money before nicking off and when the last one left Meiwes obsessively cared for her until death.
In short Meiwes wanted something permanent for himself – what he described as a ‘brother’. He concluded that, by consuming a lover, the digested flesh would physically transgress into his being for evermore. We learned that aside from a spell in the army, the desire to eat human flesh had been an all-consuming urge (excuse the pun) since he hit puberty.
Whilst his character was being dissected (if you’ll excuse the pun, again) much less was made of the victim. We got a miniscule amount on his background. It wasn’t dissimilar to Meiwes, but there was nothing to explain why he wanted some random fellow to eat him – in particular, his winkle.
I’m not saying I can understand why anyone would want to eat another person, though I can project my sympathies sufficiently to inform you that I’d much rather be the diner than the meal. Incidentally Brandes wasn’t the only person offering himself for consumption; apparently Meiwes had a pick of over 400 individuals that wanted to be his tea…
After meeting online and discussing plans, Miewes arranged to meet Brandt at the station near to his late mother’s 44 bedroom mansion and drove him home. After showing him around, lobby, winter lounge, kitchen, ‘slaughter room,’ as he openly referred to it, they had sex because, according to Miewes, Brandes wanted to. After the latter dosed up on sleeping pills and cough syrup, and following one failed attempt, Miewes cut off his lover’s manhood, as discussed of course.
At this point I started to feel a bit peculiar. Far from a barrel of laughs, Miewes came across as quite affable. He was almost affectionate when discussing his lover, but the manner in which nonchalantly described some of the events had a tendency to suddenly chill the blood like liquid nitrogen. In two or three instances it was impossible not to feel physically sick. One period of nausea arrived when Miewes recalled how Brandes screamed for no more than 30 seconds before expressing his disappointment that it didn’t hurt more, casually acknowledging the spurting wound.
As Brandes ‘relaxed’ upstairs, Miewes popped down into the kitchen, split and broiled the winkle, fried it with some garlic and took it back upstairs for a spot of post-penectomy dining. Apparently Brandes was very upset that it was inedible, which is a disappointment to say the least, especially as he was, by that point, bleeding heavily from the hole where his penis / sausage was.
I have to say I found the next part the hardest bit of all to comprehend, which may come as some surprise with regard to what has happened so far. Miewes ran his pal a hot bath and, whilst he went downstairs to read a Star Trek book, left him there for a few hours to ‘bleed out.’
I don’t think this translates as well in writing as it does when spoken by Miewes, and this was the programme’s strength. The interviews were inter cut with footage of the actual locations within the house – kitchen, slaughter room, bed, hook in the ceiling etc… This gave the variously unpleasant stages an insidious quality which occasionally convulsed into unmitigated horror.
Brandes was still alive after his bath – by now more blood than water (‘as he was still spurting’) – and after getting out and collapsing a few times, eventually he passed out for good.
Miewes made it clear he wasn’t interested in killing anyone (weirdly I sort of believed him, killing was a means to an end in the same way as carnivores buy meat at the supermarket) nonetheless, after a small struggle with himself he slit his lover’s throat, removed his head and hung him on the meat hook where he was disembowelled and dismembered in accordance with instructions attained online. The body parts were packed as choice cuts (65lbs worth) and placed in the large chest freezer in the kitchen. For the next 10 months he ritually cooked and ate Brandes daily (describing its taste as ‘rich Pork’) with his best dinner service by candlelight.
Incredibly none of these facts are remotely contentious. From the outset Miewes and Brandes agreed to film the whole evening, particularly as Brandes was keen to watch himself having his penis cut off. When 20 minutes of the more grisly ‘highlights’ were shown to the jury all but two vomited in their seats as Miewes stood by watching calmly.
This will probably be the part of the programme that will stick in my brain. Miewes’ calmness, his matter-of-factness, made the events he described seem virtually normal, like he was talking about two mates on a Saturday night eating pizza, getting drunk and one of them passing out from over-indulgence…
But there was something else in this interview that concerned me and it took me a while to work out what it was. Initially I thought he was a little arrogant, almost smug – but it wasn’t just that. As the credits rolled I got it. Miewes appetite had been sated. He was full.