Armin Meiwes was however cleared on Friday by a court in central Germany of murder at the end of a trial that both fascinated and appalled Germany.

Meiwes killed and ate Bernd Juergen Brandes in 2001 after sex and hours of sado-masochism, but always insisted it was consensual.

Twisted desires

Brandes apparently volunteered to be killed and eaten for an "ultimate sexual kick."

The judges agreed and turned down state prosecutor's calls for a murder conviction, which would have carried a life sentence of 15 years.

Meiwes, 42, wearing a grey suit and shirt, gave no reaction as the verdict was read out to the packed courtroom in Kassel.

His lawyers had demanded a lesser charge of killing on demand, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Presiding judge Volker Muetze said Meiwes had not committed murder in the legal sense but showed "a behaviour that is condemned in our society- namely killing and butchering of a human being."

Disturbed deviants

He added that both the killer and the victim were "two deeply psychologically disturbed people who both wanted something from the other."

Among the evidence was hours of video footage taken of the macabre events of 10 March, 2001. The judges also heard testimony from five other would-be-victims who had answered Meiwes' Internet advertisement for someone willing to be killed and eaten.

Meiwes fantasised about eating someone and began using the Internet to contact like-minded souls.

 

Brandes apparently volunteered to be killed and eaten for an "ultimate sexual kick."


 



Brandes, a 43-year-old engineer, responded to his advertisement and volunteered.

"He wanted the ultimate kick," Muetze said.

Grisly encounter

After initial e-mail contacts, the two men agreed to meet at Meiwes' home. After sex at Brandes' request, they cut off his penis which they fried and tried to eat.

Brandes was eventually stabbed to death and then his body sliced up. Meiwes ate 20 kg of the flesh, stored more in a freezer and buried Brandes' bones and the skull in the garden.

The judge said the thrill for Meiwes was in the carving for consumption rather than the killing.

He was arrested in December 2001 after an Austrian student noticed another Internet advertisement and alerted police.