DRESDEN, Germany: A German police officer went on trial Friday accused of murdering a willing victim he met on a website for cannibalism fetishists so he could make a grisly pornographic home video.
In a macabre case that has captured global attention, prosecutors say the 56-year-old defendant, Detlev Guenzel, killed the man at his home last November, then cut his body into small pieces and buried them in his garden.
“He killed and dismembered him to get sexual stimulation and then later to get sexual stimulation by watching the video he made,” chief prosecutor Andreas Feron told the regional court in the eastern city of Dresden.
Guenzel could face 15 years in prison if convicted of murder and “disturbing the peace of the dead.”
The men came across each other in October 2013 on a website for slaughter and cannibalism fantasies billed as “the #1 site for exotic meat” and boasting more than 3,000 registered members.
A click on a box allows participants to say if they would like to go beyond the realm of the imagination.
Investigators say, however, there is no evidence that the suspect ate any part of the dead man.
Guenzel has retracted a confession he made to police in which he said he killed 59-year-old Polish-born Wojciech Stempniewicz by cutting his throat, and an autopsy found the cause of death was asphyxiation.
His defense team argued that Stempniewicz, who had long expressed a death wish, hanged himself in Guenzel’s custom-designed “S&M studio” in his cellar before Guenzel took a knife, then an electrical saw, to his body.
Guenzel, a trim man with closely cropped gray hair, entered the courtroom wearing a white hoodie jacket and neat gray trousers and smirked slightly as media photographers took his picture.
He told presiding judge Birgit Wiegand that he would not address the facts of the case for now, but he recounted his life story.
“I grew up in a beautiful house with my parents and had a very sheltered childhood,” said Guenzel, a three-decade veteran of the police force who was raised in communist East Germany.
“I was the baby of the family and was spoiled by everyone.”
Guenzel had been married to his male partner in a civil union for 10 years at the time of the killing but said they divorced earlier this year.
He has two adult children from a previous marriage and said he had adopted his partner’s daughter, who now lives in Ireland.
Guenzel’s partner, neighbors and police colleagues have told investigators they were shocked to learn of his double life.
The 50-minute video is to be presented during the trial, which is scheduled to last at least until November and hear testimony from around 20 witnesses, including the dead man’s estranged wife.
Prosecutor Feron recounted the video’s content in graphic detail, quoting the blood-soaked Guenzel as saying at one point as he mutilated the corpse, “I never thought I would sink so low.”
However, Guenzel’s defense attorney Endrik Wilhelm said the recording proves that Stempniewicz committed suicide by hanging himself.
Wilhelm said the man’s knees were bent while he hung, his mouth taped shut and his hands bound behind his back with his consent.
“It is clear he could have extended his legs to touch the floor, in which case he would still be alive,” he said.
Stempniewicz, a business consultant from the city of Hanover, and Guenzel had extensive contact online and by telephone before finally arranging the fatal date on Nov. 4.
Their emails had the title “Schlachtfest,” the German word for a country feast after the slaughter of a pig.
Guenzel picked him up at Dresden’s main railway station and drove him back to his house in the mountain town of Hartmannsdorf-Reichenau near the Czech border, where he ran as a bed and breakfast.
Wilhelm expressed fears that massive media attention had created a bias against his client.
He noted that most reports drew parallels with the infamous case of German cannibal Armin Meiwes, who admitted to killing, mutilating and eating the flesh of a lover in 2001 after meeting him on the Internet via an advertisement looking for a “slaughter victim.”