Armin Meiwes has become known as the real-life Hannibal Lecter after it was revealed that he had killed and eaten Bernd-J├╝rgen Brandes, who had volunteered himself as victim after answering a message on a cannibalism website. Meiwes cut off Brandes' penis and the two ate it together before Brandes slowly bled to death. He was eventually killed by Meiwes, who dismembered him and ate parts of his flesh over the following ten months.

Born in the German town of Kassel, computer technician Meiwes led a very lonely childhood. His father was a stern man who was largely disinterested in his son. When the marriage broke up, when Meiwes was only eight, he abandoned the family, never to contact them again. He later told the court during the murder trial that Meiwes had been a well-behaved little boy but had been obsessed with the story of Hansel and Gretel, in particular the chapter about fattening up Hansel to cook and eat him.

When Meiwes' father left, it fell to his mother to become the dominant parent, who would often admonish him in public and insisted in accompanying him everywhere. Meiwes, lacking a father figure, created an imaginary brother called Franky through whom he vented his first cannibalistic thoughts, as Franky would 'listen' to Meiwes, something his mother never did.

At age 12 Meiwes began to fantasise about eating his friends so that they would become part of him and stay with him forever, a desperate solution for a very lonely and misunderstood only child.

In 1999 Meiwes' mother died and left him the family's large mansion house in Amstetten. Totally alone for the first time in his life, without the demands of his controlling mother, he reportedly constructed a shrine to her in the house, complete with a plastic mannequin that he would lay on a pillow each night.

After his mother's death he also developed an interest in internet pornography, particularly that featuring torture and pain, and through these internet sites Meiwes found his way into his first chat rooms about cannibalism.