When you hear 'cannibal' you think Hannibal Lecter, the liver-eating serial killer in Silence Of The Lambs. Yet, real-life Hannibals do exist – and be warned, they are as stomach-churning as they sound...
The Cannibal Poet: Mexico
When police burst into writer Jose Luis Calva Zepeda’s home, he was eating dinner. But what was on the menu?
The horrifying answer – his girlfriend, Alejandra Galeana, 32.
Officers had raided Calva’s flat in October 2007 after the mum-of-two failed to turn up for work. They discovered a place set at the kitchen table, and a plate of fried meat – the cooked flesh from Alejandra’s right forearm, seasoned with lemon juice.
Flesh was also found in a frying pan on the stove.
Inside the bedroom closet was Alejandra’s mutilated body – missing the forearm and right leg below the knee. The missing limbs were in the fridge, human bones in a cereal box.
Calva, 38, tried to escape through a window, but was arrested.
He claimed he’d accidentally choked Alejandra during a row and planned to get rid of her remains by cooking and feeding it to stray dogs.
Yet officers found an unfinished novel entitled Cannibal Instincts, with a photo of a masked Hannibal Lecter on the front.
Dubbed the ‘cannibal poet’, Calva was suspected of several more murders, including butchering another former girlfriend.
In the end, he was convicted of two murders and sentenced to 84 years in prison.
On 11 December 2007, he was found hanged in his prison cell.
‘I am the Crossbow Cannibal’: UK
In May 2010, Stephen Griffiths was arrested after being caught on CCTV killing a woman with a crossbow – in the corridor right outside his flat.
And as he appeared at Bradford Magistrates’ Court, charged with murdering three prostitutes, no one quite knew the grisly end his victims had faced.
Until Griffiths stood in the dock and, when asked his name, said: ‘The Crossbow Cannibal’.
Griffiths said he’d skinned his victims, chopped up their bodies in his ‘slaughterhouse’ bathroom using power tools, a hammer, knives and a samurai sword.
Then he’d cooked and gorged on their flesh, before disposing of their remains in a river.
He was jailed for life.
House of Horror: USA
There are few cases more gruesome than that of Jeffrey Dahmer.
At 11.30pm on 22 July 1991, a man called Tracy Edwards escaped Dahmer’s home in Milwaukee and flagged down two police officers. He said he’d been drugged, handcuffed.
They went to Dahmer’s apartment, where they found photos of dismembered bodies. Dahmer was arrested.
A further search revealed more horrors. Skulls, a heart, a chunk of muscle, and internal organs. Two hands, genitals, a complete skeleton, dried human scalp.
Dahmer confessed. He admitted he first murdered at 18 – hitchhiker Steven Mark Hicks.
He’d brought him home and plied him with drink before strangling him with a dumbbell.
He’d then stripped Steven’s body, masturbated over his corpse, before disposing of his body in his garden.
Over the next 13 years, he preyed on young men.
He lured them home, drugged them and strangled them, then had sex with their corpses.
He’d remove their organs and flesh and store their body parts for later consumption. A head was found in the fridge.
In 1992, Dahmer was convicted of murdering 15 men and boys, although he confessed to 17 killings. He was jailed for 15 consecutive life terms, 957 years.
In 1994, convicted killer Christopher Scarver beat Dahmer to death with a metal bar.
Death ad: Germany
The advert was simple. ‘Looking for well-built 18-30-year-old to be slaughtered and consumed,’ wrote Armin Meiwes.
He placed the personal ad on a cannibal fetish blog. To eat another man was his fantasy.
Bizarrely, he had many offers. Most backed out, but computer engineer Jurgen Brandes, 36, did not.
On 9 March 2001, they met at Meiwes’ apartment. Brandes swallowed 20 sleeping tablets and half a bottle of schnapps.
Together they made a video of Meiwes amputating Brandes’ penis, first using his teeth, then a knife. The organ was too ‘chewy’ to eat raw, so he cooked it. But he burnt it, so fed it to his dog.
He then put bleeding Brandes in the bath. Hours later, Brandes was still alive, so Meiwes stabbed him in the neck with a kitchen knife.
He then stripped Brandes of flesh, chopped him up and froze his body parts. Over the next 10 months, he defrosted chunks, frying Brandes’ flesh in olive oil and garlic.
Armin Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter in 2004, but during a 2006 retrial he was found guilty of murder and jailed for life.