Cannibals need day jobs too. French lawyer and food writer Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in the nineteenth century: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]. These notorious cannibals killers took the notion ‘you are what you eat’ a little too literally, but while a taste for human flesh may have kept the grocery bills low, they still had to pay the rent somehow.
Armin Meiwes – Computer Repair Technician
German cannibal killer Armin Meiwes is probably the most famous twenty-first century cannibal/ computer repair technician.
Back in March 2001, the then 39-year-old IT worker killed, butchered and ate the body of engineer Bernd Brandes over an eight month period, hiding Brandes’ flesh beneath pizza boxes at the bottom of his freezer.
The two men had met on a cannibalism-themed fetish website and Brandes had ostensibly consented to his murder. The crime came to light almost a year later, when Meiwes used the same website to advertise for a second victim.
Initially convicted of manslaughter, in 2006 prosecutors successfully argued that Meiwes’ conviction should be upgraded to murder. The former computer repair technician is currently serving a life sentence and has become vegetarian.
Issei Sagawa – Academic and Writer
In 1981 Issei Sagawa was completing his PhD in French literature at the Sorbonne, Paris when he murdered fellow student Renée Hartevelt. Having shot the brilliant young scholar in the neck with a hunting riffle, pathetic rich-kid perv Sagawa raped her corpse and consumed parts of her body over the following two days.
When Sagawa’s crime was discovered, his wealthy parents moved fast to save their son from the consequences of his horrible actions. They hired one of the finest defense lawyers in Paris, who was able to convince a judge that the 33-year-old academic was insane when the crime was committed.
He was deported to Japan, where he was assessed by Japanese psychiatrists who determined that Sagawa was not mentally illl, but that the murder had been sexually motivated. Unable to legally detain the confessed cannibal, Sagawa walked free.
He has since admitted that in his twenties he had planned a similar crime, but that his intended victim was able to overpower him and escape.
In the decades following the murder of Renée Hartevelt, Sagawa enjoyed modest success as a crime writer and restaurant reviewer, also appearing in fetish videos which played off his notoriety as a sexually-motivated cannibal killer. However, in recent times he has struggled to find steady work.
In an interview with Vice magazine in 2009, an unrepentant Sagawa claimed that his difficulty making a living as a consequence of his crimes was actually a harsher punishment than imprisonment would have been.
Jeffrey Dahmer – Phlebotomist and Chocolate Maker
Notorious Milwaulkee serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer struggled to hold down steady work when he was first discharged from the army, mostly due to his chronic alcoholism and deteriorating mental state.
On getting out of the military in 1981, Dahmer worked for a brief stint in a sandwich shop in Florida, before returning to Ohio to live with his father and step mother in the autumn of that same year, having become homeless after his excessive consumption of alcohol caused him to fall behind on rent.
When Dahmer refused to sober up for his father, the family decided he should be sent to live with his grandmother in Wisconsin. This resulted in a brief period of stability for the troubled former army medic, with Dahmer finding work as a phlebotomist at the Milwaukee Blood Plasma Center. He was employed at the blood donation clinic for almost a year, but was laid off late in 1982.
For the next two years Dahmer was jobless, supported by his elderly grandmother, until January 1985 when he was taken on as a laborer mixing vats of chocolate at the Milwaukee Ambrosia Chocolate Factory.
For the next six years he worked the 11.00pm-7.00am night shift, six nights a week until just before his indictment in 1991 for multiple counts of murder, the first of which he had committed in 1987.
At his 1992 trial Dahmer pleaded guilty, but insane to fifteen counts of murder and was convicted of a sixteenth a few months after the end of his first trial.
Dahmer admitted to committing acts of necrophilia and cannibalizing parts of his victim’s bodies. His coworkers at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory recall that Dahmer was a quiet loner, who rarely made eye contact.