Prison cannibal attack chills France

7th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 7, 2007 (AFP) - A French self-confessed cannibal was in custody at the weekend after apparently eating bits of a fellow prison inmate in a gory case raising questions about psychiatric care in detention centres.

PARIS, Jan 7, 2007 (AFP) - A French self-confessed cannibal was in custody at the weekend after apparently eating bits of a fellow prison inmate in a gory case raising questions about psychiatric care in detention centres.

It also brings back memories of Japanese Issey Sagawa, who 25 years ago killed his Dutch girlfriend in Paris, ate much of her body over three days and went on to become a celebrity at home.

Reminiscent of psychopath Hannibal Lecter in the 1981 film "The Silence of the Lambs" -- who was "having an old friend for dinner" -- the 35-year-old

French prisoner may have fried parts of a cellmate's lungs and chest with onions before devouring them, investigators believe.

The prisoner -- named by the French daily Le Parisien as Nicolas Cocaigne -- has confessed to the attack and been charged with premeditated murder and "violating the integrity of a corpse".

The body of 31-year-old Thierry Baudry was found early Thursday when guards opened the cells in the prison of Rouen in northwest France.

According to the prosecutor, he had been beaten, cut with scissors and a razor, strangled and finally asphyxiated with a plastic bag.

A third detainee in the cell was charged with being an accessory to murder.

Cocaigne's initial claim that he had eaten his victim's heart was disproved when the heart was found intact in an autopsy.

But investigators do believe that he devoured parts of his lungs and chest, possibly after preparing them in a cooker.

Detectives were running tests on samples of fat and onion taken from a saucepan in the cell, Le Parisien reported on Saturday.

Samuel Lepastier, a psychiatrist at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris, said Cocaigne probably suffered from major schizophrenia. He would have regressed to a state of early-childhood anguish and rage, exacerbated by prison conditions.

This tallies with a report in Le Monde daily that Cocaigne, who was awaiting trial on charges of armed rape, explained the attack by saying he was overcome with a sudden violent urge.

He reportedly got angry because his cellmate failed to respect prison cell rules.

"You can't always detect the mentally ill among the prison population," Lepastier told Le Parisien.

But Cocaigne's lawyer, Fabien Picchiotino, said the prison authorities had ignored early warnings.

"This drama could have been avoided if my client had been placed in psychiatric care, or if the recommendation of the investigating judge to place him in solitary confinement had been followed," he said.

Prison director Yves Bidet refused to say whether he had been warned that Cocaigne was dangerous.

France and the world have had their share of bone-chilling cannibal cases.

In July 2004, also in a French prison, a 36-year old convicted murderer cracked open the skull of an inmate and was found by wardens eating his brains with his hands.

In Germany in 2001, software energy Armin Meiwes found a willing cannibalism victim on the Internet. He cut off and ate his penis sauteed in salt, pepper and garlic, before a rolling camera, and froze other body parts for later consumption.

In Britain, in 1998, 23-year-old David Harker strangled his girlfriend and ate bits of her thigh, cooked with pasta and cheese.

But the case of Issey Sagawa stands out for sheer callousness.

A Japanese student at the Sorbonne university in Paris in 1981, Sagawa invited a Dutch girl home for dinner. He shot her, had sex with the corpse and ate her bit by bit.

Declared unfit for trial in France, he was deported to Japan, where he was freed after just 15 months in a hospital, and went on to write novels, becoming somewhat of a celebrity.

"Finally I was eating a beautiful white woman, and thought nothing was so delicious," he wrote in one of the novels, apparently showing no remorse whatsoever.

The flesh "melted in my mouth like raw tuna", although it needed salt and mustard, he said.

Sagawa, who is believed to be an inspiration for the Hannibal Lecter character in Thomas Harris's novels and films, even starred in a movie himself.

"The Bedroom" is a 1992 sex drama set in an underground Tokyo club, where women are drugged and subjected to bizarre sex by the male clientele.

The film is available in Internet stores, but not rated highly by viewers.

"Let the buyer beware," warned one reviewer on "You are watching the acting of a real life cannibal, and that for me is too macabre to deal with."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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