Suspect in custody in alleged cannibalism murder

A 41-year-old teacher from Pankow was arrested Wednesday after search dogs led investigators to his apartment.

Where the bones were discovered.
Where the bones were discovered.dpa

Berlin-Investigators believe cannibalism may have been one of the motivations in the alleged murder of Stefan T. from Berlin-Lichtenberg, which came to light after bones belonging to the victim were found in a Pankow park earlier this month, prosecutor's office spokesman Martin Steltner said. The 44-year-old victim, who had been missing for two months, likely met the suspected killer on an online dating platform.

Stefan T. was killed after agreeing to meet the suspect for sex on 5 September, investigators believe. The skinned bones as well as evidence from a computer led to the conclusion of cannibalism.

The 41-year-old suspect is from Pankow and was arrested at his apartment Wednesday and remains in custody - but has refused to talk about the alleged crime. A Berlin court issued a warrant for his detainment Thursday. The discovery of the bones lead investigators to the suspect who, according to information provided to the Berliner Zeitung, is a teacher.

Bone saws and other tools as well as blood droplets were found in the suspect's apartment, according to police. There is no evidence the victim consented to the killing or alleged cannibalism, as has been the case in other similar crimes.

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If true, the case would be the second high-profile murder involving cannibalism in Germany in the new century. In 2005, a now 58-year-old man was convicted of manslaughter and dubbed the "Cannibal of Rotenburg" after killing and eating parts of a 41-year-old man from Berlin who he met online - the victim had sought someone to kill and eat him.

"Cannibalism cases are extremely rare, very individual and with a deep psychopathological background," said criminal psychologist Steffen Dauer. "There are very complex procedures that are linked to completely individualised psychological processing, so that there is no typology for these cases and there also cannot be one."

Media leapt on the case of the Cannibal of Rotenburg and the sordid details have become a staple of true crime podcasts and TV shows, thanks in part to a four-and-a-half hour video tape of the ordeal used in court. The case was also legally compelling because the country's highest court eventually ruled that he should have been found guilty of murder, not manslaughter, and increased his sentence to life. 

He applied for early release in 2017 but was denied because of a poor prognosis for the level of danger he posed. 

Online dating

In the current case in Berlin, a dog on a walk first discovered the bones in Pankow's Blankenfelde district on 8 November. Forensic specialists identified the bones as human and specialist tracking dogs then traced them back to Stefan T.'s apartment. 

The victim's sudden disappearance had puzzled the investigators for weeks. He lived in a WG flat share in a high-rise in Lichtenberg but his roommate had little information on his whereabouts.

"Through the investigations it became known that the missing person used various dating platforms to meet both women and men," a police spokesperson said. The prosecutor's office refused to name the platform because the investigation is ongoing.

Andrew Bulkeley adapted this article for the English Edition from the German original about the suspected case of cannibalism in Berlin.