Real-Life Cannibal Reveals Why He Eats Human Flesh

Do you have the stomach for this?

Cannibal Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the LambsImage Orion Pictures

Forget about the Hollywood gloss of The Silence of the Lambs and its TV offshoot Hannibal, real cannibalism is gruesome, horrific stuff.

Take the case of Issei Sagawa, a Japanese man who murdered and cannibalised a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt in 1981.

Sagawa, then a 32-year-old student in Paris, deliberately lured Hartevelt to his apartment under the pretext of doing a poetry translation as part of a school assignment.

Stood at a tiny heigh of 5 ft, he had chosen Hartevelt for her beauty, health and comparatively towering height of 5 ft 10 in. Sagawa believed by killing and eating his victim he could absorb her energy.

He shot Hartevelt in the neck with a rifle, then ate various parts of her body (keeping it in the fridge) before being caught trying to dump what remained of the corpse in the Bois de Boulogne.

The story doesn’t end there. Sagawa was declared unfit for trial and locked away in a psychiatric hospital in Paris. Eventually he was deported when the French objected to hosting a murderous cannibal and doctors in Japan declared him “sane, but evil” in psychiatric reports.

Sagawa checked himself out of Tokyo’s Matsuzawa Psychiatric hospital in 1986 and has been free ever since. He’s become something of a celebrity in Japan, becoming an author, reviewer and public speaker as the country became fascinated with his case.

Sagawa was the subject of a Vice documentary in 2011, which revealed his dark childhood and his cannibal desires for women. It’s grim viewing but well worth it if you’ve got the stomach for it.

Watch Vice’s extraordinary Issei Sagawa cannibal documentary below:

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn