Accused cannibal may be freed by German court


GERMANY: A 26-year-old electrician could walk free from a German court where he is standing trial for the second time, accused of suffocating, dismembering and eating his 22-year-old cousin with a serving of rice.

The man, identified only as Thomas S, shared an apartment in a small town near the western city of Koblenz with his cousin Sabine. On January 10th, 2002, prosecutors accuse him of killing her in a jealous rage when she told him she was pregnant. Later, in police custody, he said he had no memory of events.

"I had smoked hash and when I woke up the bath was full of blood and there was Sabine's head and pelvis," he said. "In the kitchen the oven was baking. When I opened the door two legs and a ribcage fell out against me."

Investigators are not sure if the accused ate the victim's flesh, but noted that her breasts and genitals have never been found. Other body parts were coated with long-grain rice.

They found a carpet knife in front of the oven and, in the living room, three videos: Let Bones Speak, Hannibal and Death of a Girl.

Germany's third cannibal trial in as many years already has a complicated legal history.

A state court in Koblenz found the accused already guilty but insane in December 2003 and sent him to a psychiatric facility.

Defence lawyers successfully appealed the conviction, saying the psychiatric report was flawed. A higher court agreed and ordered a retrial, but the man may be acquitted as German law does not allow a retrial following a successful appeal by the defence to end in a harsher verdict.

"For that reason he cannot be convicted of murder even if he is found capable of being sentenced," defence lawyer Gabriele Steck-Bromme told Bild newspaper.

The state prosecutor demanded a harsher sentence.