A normally staid nation is spellbound by the daily media serving about a man who confesses he found a willing victim on an internet site - then killed and ate him Germany just cannot seem to get its fill of a bizarre story of cannibalism, the internet and a victim willing to be eaten. Ever since Armin Meiwes, a 42-year-old computer expert, was arrested for killing and devouring another man last December, this normally staid country has been both horrified and fascinated by the gruesome deed. For many Germans, the most disturbing and intriguing part of the incident is not so much the cannibalism, but rather that someone would actually volunteer to be eaten. And since Meiwes' trial began this month, the German media has served a daily portion of grisly detail. 'The idea was he would become part of me through my body,' Meiwes told a courtroom in the central city of Kassel on December 3. Speaking in a relaxed and conversational tone, he explained how he sought his meal in some of the darker recesses of the internet - a world of sadomasochistic websites, message boards and chat rooms focused on sexual perversion and cannibalism. Meiwes found his victim, an engineer from Berlin named Bernd-Jurgen Brandes, after placing an online advertisement for a young man 'to slay and slaughter'. In March 2001, Brandes travelled to Meiwes' home in the small town of Rotenburg and subsequently agreed to have his body mutilated before being stabbed to death. Meiwes' confession on the first day of the trial of how he hacked up, froze and then periodically dined on around 20kg of flesh was topped last Monday, when the courtroom was shown the video tape he made of the entire macabre act. 'Carving up the body was fun, the moment of death was horrible,' Meiwes said. After his arrest, a psychologist determined the mild-mannered Meiwes was aware of what he had done and was fit to stand trial. Since cannibalism itself is not illegal in Germany and the victim consented to being killed, Meiwes' defence attorneys are arguing for the mild punishment that comes with the crime of 'death upon request'. Normally applied to mercy killings or euthanasia, it carries a maximum of five years in jail. But prosecutors and some German criminal experts reject letting the so-called 'Cannibal from Rotenburg' off so lightly. 'It's ridiculous to suggest there may be some sort of legal loophole here just because cannibalism isn't on the books,' professor of criminology Adolf Gallwitz said. 'This particular case involves a person with sadomasochistic tendencies who was seeking sexual partners. It's irrelevant if the victim asked to be killed or not.' Besides presenting the German legal system with an unseen cannibalistic challenge, the bizarre case has also shed light on a dark corner of the internet that probably few Germans knew existed until last year. Meiwes said he had had the desire to eat another person ever since he was a young boy growing up alone with a bitter and dominating mother. But only after she died in 1999 did he begin to explore his dark fantasies online. Meiwes' attorney, Harald Ermel, said his client had made contact with at least 280 people via online forums with names like 'Eaten', 'Cannibal Cafe' and 'Gourmet'. About 200 were offering themselves for slaughter, 30 wanted to do the killing and the rest hoped to watch. When police searched his house, they found he had also downloaded recipes for cooking human body parts and information about other cannibals such as the American serial killer Jeffery Dahmer and Hollywood's infamous man-eater Hannibal Lecter. As a court heard further grisly detail of the case on Friday, Mr Ermel said Meiwes was in talks on a movie deal about his story. Several movie offers had been made, and Meiwes had begun writing a book about himself. Professor Gallwitz said there was no way to control the gruesome side of the world wide web. 'We have to rely on the internet's own self-cleaning mechanisms. That's exactly what happened in this case,' he said, explaining how an Austrian tipped off the police after seeing Meiwes' wanted ad. As the trial continues, the German media is having a hard time policing itself. Although in recent years the country's once reserved press has slid more towards the sensationalism favoured in some English-speaking countries, the cannibal story has unleashed a torrent of often gratuitous reports on television and in print. The German Press Council in September criticised the glossy weekly news and lifestyle magazine Stern for its sensationalist reporting on the topic. After interviewing Meiwes in jail, Stern published a graphic depiction of how he dismembered and then later fed upon Brandes' body. 'That clearly goes too far,' press council member Arno Weyand said. 'This is such a unique case - it's possible to highlight every single grim detail, but one doesn't really need to. There have to be some boundaries.'