It’s not uncommon for society’s most taboo subjects to make their way into people’s fantasies and fetishes – violence, rape, murder. It is when those ideas pass out of the realm of role-play and into reality that they become a problem.
Cannibal fetishism is far from rare, with online forums devoted to the subject throbbing with people indulging their darkest fantasies. But sometimes fantasising is only a short step away from doing, on the part of both cannibal and victim. These instances are perhaps more fascinating than ever, with high profile cases offering rare glimpses into the unique minds of cannibals and their fans alike.
Under the pseudonym ‘Kanibm’ (which literally translates to ‘Cannibal’), Matej Curko was a frequent visitor of online cannibal fetish sites. He would post ads soliciting victims to meet him in the woods, where he would kill them, chop them up and eat them. To the passing user, his posts would likely not stand out from any other sadomasochistic role-play solicitation.
This, along with his unassuming reputation in the village of Kysak in Slovakia where he lived with his wife and two daughters, is likely why his crimes went unnoticed for so long.
Police were alerted to Curko’s online alias by a Swiss man called Markus Dubach, who had responded to one of Curko’s ads, while curious and suicidally depressed. Dubach and Curko exchanged emails, during which time Curko gave his intended victim very specific details about what he intended to do. He described the way he could drug Dubach, so that he would not feel pain, and then stab him in the heart. After that, Curko explained, he would eat the body and coat the remains in pepper to hide the smell of putrefaction.
Dubach passed all the emails onto the police, who sent an undercover agent in place of the victim, wearing the clothes that Curko had specified and a wire beneath. He showed up carrying a knapsack packed with everything he needed to kill, eat and dispose of Dubach. His kit included sedatives, vodka, spices, a gas lighter and gloves. He had hidden further equipment throughout the woods, including knives, guns, rope and tools. Although Curko was never connected to any spiritual doctrine, a candle and makeshift alter were a lost later found.
When the agent identified himself, Curko drew a gun and threatened to shoot. A police sniper shot Curko several times, but he managed to severely injure at least one SWAT team member before he collapsed. Although police were unable to directly question Curko, they managed to find the bodies of two women in the woods based on GPS locations stored on his computer. Some of their body parts were found in Curko’s family freezer.
In the time since, investigators have been unable to access Curko’s online history in full, but they believe he could be connected to dozens of missing persons.
As far as murderers go, Armin Meiwes was something of a gentleman. He posted an ad on a blog site called The Cannibal Café seeking a “well-built 18- to 30-year old to be slaughtered and then consumed”. He got a number of responses from cannibal fetishists, but they all eventually dropped out. Meiwes did not pressure them to do anything they did not feel comfortable doing.
An engineer from Berlin named Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes responded to Meiwes’s post in March 2001 and went to his home in Rotenburg on the 9th. There, the two men videoed Meiwes amputating Brandes’s penis. The victim swallowed twenty slipping pills washed down with half a bottle of schnapps. It was the closest thing he took to anaesthetic. At first, Brandes insisted that Meiwes bite it off, but the cannibal failed and ended up cutting it off with a knife.
Brandes tried to eat some of his severed appendage raw, but described it as too “chewy”. Meiwes fried the rest of the penis in a pan with wine, garlic, salt and pepper. He ended up burning it when he tried to fry it using fat from his victim’s body, so chopped it up into chunks and fed it to his dog.
The amputation caused Brandes to lose a lot of blood, but not enough to kill him right away. He sat in the bath and waited to bleed out, with Meiwes checking in on him every fifteen minutes. Eventually, Brandes attempted to get out of the bath, but collapsed due to blood loss. Meiwes dragged him upstairs, where he drifted in and out of consciousness before collapsing yet again. Although Meiwes hesitated for a while, he finally stabbed Brandes in the throat, killing him, then hung the body on a meat hook.
The final video tape of the evening was four hours long. It was viewed by court officials who tried Meiwes for murder. Unsurprisingly, it was never released to the public. Over the course of the next ten months, Meiwes as much as twenty kilograms of Brandes’s body. He stored the meat in his freezer beneath pizza boxes.
Police began to investigate Meiwes when an Innsbruck university student saw new advertisements for victims online. They searched his home in December 2002 and found the tape Meiwes had made with Brandes, as well as the remaining chunks of his body. He was arrested and convicted of manslaughter on January 30th 2004.
In the time since, Meiwes has expressed regret for his crimes and a desire to write a book of his life story that he hopes will deter anyone who might copy his actions. Serving sentence of life imprisonment, initially for manslaughter but upgraded to murder in May 2006 following a retrial, Meiwes is now a vegetarian. This has not deterred other cannibal fetishists, who populate fan websites dedicated to Meiwes and post similar advertisements.
Meiwes thinks that people who idolise him should seek treatment, “so it doesn’t escalate like it did with me”.
Although there is no definitive proof that German forensic handwriting specialist Detlev Guenzel ate his intended victim, he did meet Wojciech Stempniewicz on a cannibal fetish website. Both men had frequented a number of similar websites and, after they found each other online, discussed torture and death at length.
On November 4th, Guenzel met Stempniewicz at a bus station in Dresden and drove him to the bed and breakfast he co-owned in the Erzebirge Mountains. He had previously told Stempniewics about the equipment he kept there, which included a winch from which Guenzel could hang bodies while they bled out.
What happened in the cellar of the bed and breakfast was never fully established. Guenzel claimed at his trial in 2015 that Stempniewics killed himself, but was tried for murder, with no evidence other than his own testimony that Stempniewics’s death had been a suicide. He admitted that he was “partially responsible” but remained adamant that he was not a murderer.
Whoever ultimately committed the act, Stempniewics had throat cut, after which he was winched up onto Guenzel’s dark equipment. From there his blood spilled out into an old paint pot until he was dead.
Stempniewics’s fiancée called the police when he did not return home. He was traced via the messages he had sent to Guenzel, who was arrested in the very police station he worked in.
Guenzel admitted that he had drained his victim of blood and chopped up the corpse, but claimed that Stempniewics had killed himself and none of the body had been eaten. Chunks of the dismembered corpse were found in the flowerbeds of Guenzel’s garden. Despite the fact that the two men met on a cannibal fetish website, there is a possibility that Guenzel did not consume any of the corpse. The only parts that could not be at all accounted for when the body parts were collected was Stempniewics’s penis and a testicle.
Maybe Guenzel tried eating those and decided against having any more. Maybe he changed his mind about eating Stempniewics for some other reason.
As long as Guenzel maintains his innocence, there is no way of knowing.