List of incidents of cannibalism

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Cannibalism, or anthropophagy, is the consumption of human flesh or internal organs by other human beings. Accounts of cannibalism date back as far as Biblical times, and some anthropologists suggest that cannibalism was common in human societies as early as the Paleolithic Era. Historically, numerous tribal societies have reportedly engaged in cannibalism, although very few are thought to continue the practice to this day.

Occasionally, starving people have resorted to cannibalism for survival necessity. Classical antiquity recorded numerous references to cannibalism during siege starvations. More recent well-documented examples include the Donner Party in 1846, and the 1972 Andes flight disaster. Some murderers, such as Albert Fish and Boone Helm, are known to have devoured their victims after killing them. Other individuals, such as artist Rick Gibson and journalist William Seabrook, have legally consumed human flesh out of curiosity, or as an attention-grabbing stunt.

Middle Ages[edit]

  • For a brief time in Europe, an unusual form of cannibalism occurred when thousands of Egyptian mummies preserved in bitumen were ground up and sold as medicine.[1] The practice developed into a wide-scale business which flourished until the late 16th century. This "fad" ended because the mummies were revealed actually to be recently killed slaves. Two centuries ago, mummies were still believed to have medicinal properties against bleeding, and were sold as pharmaceuticals in powdered form.[2]

17th–19th centuries[edit]


  • In colonial Jamestown, colonists resorted to cannibalism during a period known as the Starving Time, from 1609 to 1610.[3] After food supplies were diminished, some colonists began to dig up corpses for food. During this time period, one man was tortured until he confessed to having killed, salted, and eaten his pregnant wife; he was burned alive as punishment.[4][5]


  • The accounts of the sinking of the Luxborough Galley in 1727 reported cannibalism amongst the survivors during their two weeks on a small boat in the mid-Atlantic.


  • The Essex was sunk by a sperm whale in the Pacific Ocean in 1820. The survivors of Captain Pollard's boat spent 90 days in a small whaling boat before being rescued. All the members who died during the 90 days were eaten. When the boat was found there were two members remaining; they were found sucking on the marrow of a human bone. The tale of the Essex inspired Herman Melville to write his novel Moby-Dick.
  • In the US, the group of settlers known as the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism while snowbound in the mountains for the winter of 1846–47.
  • In 1816, the French frigate Méduse ran aground off Mauritania, and 147 passengers and crew took to sea on a hastily constructed raft. In the chaotic 13 days before they were rescued, the occupants of the raft were driven to suicide, murder, and cannibalism; only 15 men survived the experience.
  • Boone Helm, also known as "The Kentucky Cannibal", was an American mountain man, serial killer and fugitive, who ate human flesh on several occasions between 1850 and 1854, often out of necessity in extreme conditions. He made no secret of the fact, and is reported to have said: "Many's the poor devil I've killed, at one time or another ... and the time has been that I've been obliged to feed on some of 'em".
  • The case of R v. Dudley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273 (QB) is an English case which dealt with four crew members of an English yacht, the Mignonette, who were cast away in a storm some 1,600 miles (2,600 km) from the Cape of Good Hope. After several days, one of the crew, a seventeen-year-old cabin boy, fell unconscious due to a combination of the famine and drinking seawater. The others (one possibly objecting) decided then to kill him and eat him. They were picked up four days later. Two of the three survivors were found guilty of murder. A significant outcome of this case was that necessity was determined to be no defence against a charge of murder.

20th century[edit]


  • The crew members of the steamship Dumaru spent three weeks adrift in a lifeboat after the ship exploded and sank in the western Pacific Ocean on October 16, 1916. Quickly exhausting their supply of food and water, they resorted to cannibalism to survive.[8]


  • Serial killer Albert Fish caused much argument over whether he was insane because he consumed his victims. He confessed to molesting more than four hundred children over twenty years and is believed to have murdered somewhere between six and fifteen children.[9] Psychiatrist Frederick Wertham described Fish as looking like “a meek and innocuous little old man, gentle and benevolent, friendly and polite. If you wanted someone to entrust your child to, he would be the one you would choose”.[10] Fish’s most infamous murder is that of a little girl in 1928, whose flesh he cut into strips, cooked with carrots, onions, and strips of bacon. This excited him sexually.[11] Wertham described how Fish’s account of the culinary process was “like a housewife describing her favorite methods of cooking. You had to remind yourself that this was a little girl he was talking about”.[12] When the same psychiatrist declared Fish mad, Fish disagreed and stated he was just "queer".[13]


  • Prior to 1931, New York Times reporter William Buehler Seabrook, allegedly in the interests of research, obtained from a hospital intern at the Sorbonne a chunk of human meat from the body of a healthy human killed in an accident, then cooked and ate it. He reported, "It was like good, fully-developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted. It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal. It was mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork have. The steak was slightly tougher than prime veal, a little stringy, but not too tough or stringy to be agreeably edible. The roast, from which I cut and ate a central slice, was tender, and in color, texture, smell as well as taste, strengthened my certainty that of all the meats we habitually know, veal is the one meat to which this meat is accurately comparable".[14][15]
  • Cannibalism was widespread during the famine of Ukraine in 1932-3,[16] forcing Soviet officials to commission posters saying: "To eat your own children is a barbarian act".[17]


  • There are eyewitness accounts of cannibalism during the Siege of Leningrad (1941–44), including reports of people cutting off and eating their own flesh.[18]
  • Alferd Packer was an American prospector who was accused of cannibalism during the winter of 1873-1874. First tried for murder, Packer was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter.[19]
  • Following the German surrender at the Battle of Stalingrad in January/February 1943, roughly 100,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner of war (POW). Almost all of them were sent to POW camps in Siberia or Central Asia where, due to being chronically underfed by their Soviet captors, many resorted to cannibalism. Fewer than 5,000 of the prisoners taken at Stalingrad survived captivity. The majority, however, died early in their imprisonment due to exposure or sickness brought on by conditions in the surrounded army before the surrender.[20]
  • The Australian War Crimes Section of the Tokyo tribunal, led by prosecutor William Webb (the future Judge-in-Chief), collected numerous written reports and testimonies that documented Japanese soldiers' acts of cannibalism among their own troops, on enemy dead, and on Allied prisoners of war in many parts of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. In September 1942, Japanese daily rations on New Guinea consisted of 800 grams of rice and tinned meat. However, by December, this had fallen to 50 grams.[21]:78–80 According to historian Yuki Tanaka, "cannibalism was often a systematic activity conducted by whole squads and under the command of officers".[22]
In some cases, flesh was cut from living people. An Indian POW, Lance Naik Hatam Ali (later a citizen of Pakistan), testified that in New Guinea: "the Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the soldiers. I personally saw this happen and about 100 prisoners were eaten at this place by the Japanese. The remainder of us were taken to another spot 50 miles (80 kilometres) away where 10 prisoners died of sickness. At this place, the Japanese again started selecting prisoners to eat. Those selected were taken to a hut where their flesh was cut from their bodies while they were alive and they were thrown into a ditch where they later died."[23]
  • Another well-documented case occurred in Chichijima in February 1945, when Japanese soldiers killed and consumed five American airmen. This case was investigated in 1947 in a war crimes trial, and of 30 Japanese soldiers prosecuted, five (Maj. Matoba, Gen. Tachibana, Adm. Mori, Capt. Yoshii, and Dr. Teraki) were found guilty and hanged.[24]


  • Also in 1972, at the same time as the Andean incident, Marten Hartwell crashed his aircraft near the arctic circle in Canada's North West Territory. The three passengers died in the month it took searchers to find them but Hartwell survived by eating part of one body.


  • On 11 June 1981, Issei Sagawa murdered a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt by shooting her in the neck with a rifle at his home in Paris, France. After having sex with the corpse, he began to eat her, starting with the buttocks and thighs. A few days later, he was discovered while attempting to dump the mutilated body into a lake, and subsequently arrested. He was held for two years without trial, then declared legally insane. Soon afterward, Japanese author Inuhiko Yomota published Sagawa's memoirs, including a detailed account of the murder. The book was a bestseller, and Sagawa became a minor celebrity. However, he was quickly extradited to Japan, where mental health professionals announced that he was perfectly sane. Because the French government refused to grant access to secret court documents, the Japanese authorities were unable to bring charges against him. He was released in 1986, and now lives in Tokyo, making a living as a freelance writer.[25]
  • Michael Woodmansee was convicted in 1983 of kidnapping and killing 5 year old Jason Foreman in 1975 in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. There was evidence at the time that Woodmansee wrote in his journal of eating the flesh of young Jason.[26]
  • In 1988, artist Rick Gibson legally performed an act of cannibalism by eating a canapé of donated human tonsils in Walthamstow High Street, London.[27] A year later, he publicly ate a slice of legally purchased human testicle in Lewisham High Street, London.[28] When he tried to eat another slice of human testicle in Vancouver, Canada in 1989, he was stopped by the police.[29] However, the charge was dropped and he finally ate a testicle hors d'œuvre in Vancouver in 1989.[30]


  • Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, murdered at least seventeen people between 1978 and 1991. Following his arrest, he told police that he had cut up the thighs, biceps and internal organs of several of his victims and cooked them in a stovetop skillet before consuming them. He claimed that they tasted like filet mignon.[31]
  • Over Thanksgiving weekend of 1991, newlywed Omaima Aree Nelson murdered, dismembered, and cannibalized her husband, William E. "Bill" Nelson in their Costa Mesa home. Pathology reports indicate Bill was still alive when Omaima began butchering his body, in which court and media reports indicate was a ritualistic manner. She then boiled and cooked his head in the oven, ate its flesh, and stored the foil-wrapped skull in the freezer; skinned his torso; deep fried his hands in oil; and cooked and dipped his ribs in barbecue sauce and tasted them.[32][33][34][35]
  • Andrei Chikatilo, a serial killer born within the Ukraine, experienced killing and cannibalism as paraphilia. He was convicted for murder in 1992 and subsequently executed.[13][36]
  • During the North Korean famine that occurred between 1994 and 1998, there were leaked stories of cannibalism from North Korean refugees.[37]
  • Ilshat Kuzikov, of St. Petersburg, Russia, was convicted in March 1997 of eating three male acquaintances since 1992.[38]
  • A court submission at the trial of perpetrators of the Snowtown murders in South Australia revealed that two of the murderers fried and ate a part of their final victim in 1999.[39]
  • Dorangel Vargas, also known as "el comegente" (Spanish for "people-eater"), was a Venezuelan serial killer and cannibal who killed and ate at least 10 men in a period of two years preceding his arrest in 1999.

21st century[edit]


  • In March 2001 in Germany, Armin Meiwes posted an Internet ad seeking a young man willing to be slaughtered and eaten. The ad was answered by Bernd Jürgen Brandes. Meiwes stabbed Brandes in the neck with a kitchen knife, kissing him first, then chopped him up into several pieces. He placed several pieces of Brandes in the freezer. Over the next few weeks, Meiwes defrosted and cooked parts of Brandes in olive oil and garlic and eventually consumed 20 kg of human flesh. Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter in 2004.[40] A retrial in 2006 found Meiwes guilty of murder, and sentenced him to life imprisonment.[41] The songs "Mein Teil" by Rammstein and "Eaten" by Bloodbath are based on this case.
  • In July 2002, four Ukrainians were arrested in Kiev for killing and eating a teenage girl. They were suspected of killing at least 6 people. Evidence showed that the murders may have been influenced by satanism.[38]
  • In a 2003 drug-related case, the rap artist Big Lurch was convicted of the murder and partial consumption of an acquaintance while both were under the influence of PCP.[42]
  • In February 2004, a 39 year-old Briton named Peter Bryan from East London was caught after he killed his friend Brian Cherry and ate parts of his brain, fried in butter. He had been arrested for murder previously, but was released shortly before this act was committed. While on trial for the murder of Cherry, Bryan was sentenced to life imprisonment, despite his claim of diminished responsibility.[43][44] In January 2006, his sentence was revised to a minimum of 15 years.[45]
  • A count of 25 albino Tanzanians have been murdered since March 2007 reportedly through witch doctor butchery arising from prevailing superstition.[46][47] In 2008, Tanzania's President Kikwete publicly condemned witch doctors for killing people with albinism for their body parts, which are thought to bring good luck.
  • On September 14, 2007, a man named Özgür Dengiz was captured in Ankara, the Turkish capital, after killing and eating a man. After cutting slices of flesh from his victim's body, Dengiz distributed the rest to stray dogs on the street, according to his own testimony. He ate some of the man's flesh raw on his way home. Dengiz, who lived with his parents, arrived at the family house and placed the remaining parts of the body in the fridge without saying a word to his parents.[48][49]
  • In January 2008, notorious Liberian ex-rebel and reformed warlord Joshua Blahyi, 37, confessed to participating in human sacrifices which "included the killing of an innocent child and plucking out the heart, which was divided into pieces for us to eat." The cannibalism of many children occurred during the conflict in which Blahyi fought against Liberian president Charles Taylor's militia.[50]
On March 13, 2008, during the same war crimes trial, Joseph Marzah, Taylor's chief of operations and head of Taylor's alleged "death squad", accused Taylor of ordering his soldiers to commit acts of cannibalism against enemies, including peacekeepers and United Nations personnel.[51]
  • In 2008 Klara Mauerova, reportedly a member of the Grail Movement, and relatives skinned and ate the flesh of her 8-year-old son while holding him captive in a cellar.[52]
  • The murder of Tim McLean occurred on the evening of July 30, 2008. McLean, a 22-year-old Canadian man, was stabbed, beheaded and cannibalized while riding a Greyhound Canada bus near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. According to witnesses, McLean was sleeping with his headphones on when the man sitting next to him, Vincent Li, suddenly produced a large knife and began stabbing McLean in the neck and chest. The attacker then decapitated McLean, severed other body parts, and consumed some of McLean's flesh.
  • In a documentary by Colombian journalist Hollman Morris, a demobilized paramilitary confessed that during the mass killings that took place in Colombia's rural areas, many of the paras performed cannibalism. He also confessed that they were told to drink the blood of their victims in the belief that it would make them want to kill more.[53]
  • In January 2009, two Russian men, Maxim Golovatskikh and Yury Mozhnov, confessed to murdering and eating 16 year-old Karina Barduchian, explaining that they were drunk and very hungry.[55]
  • In February 2009, it was reported that five members of the Kulina tribe in Brazil were wanted by Brazilian authorities on the charge of murdering, butchering and eating a farmer in a ritual act of cannibalism.[56]
  • On 27 July 2009, an American woman, Otty Sanchez, was found in a hysterical state by police, having killed her own child and cannibalized parts of the infant's corpse.[57]
  • On November 14, 2009, three homeless men in Perm, Russia were arrested for killing and eating the parts of a 25 year-old male victim. The remaining body parts were then sold to a local pie and kebab house.[58]


  • In April 2011, in the town of Darya Khan, Punjab, Pakistan, brothers Arif Ali and Farman Ali were arrested for eating a human corpse stolen from a grave. They were cooking body parts for a meal when arrested; the police also recovered remains of human body parts from their house.[59] The brothers were released from jail in 2013; however, in April 2014, they were once again discovered to be making curry out of a human corpse (this time, the body of a two- to three-year-old child), presumed to have been stolen from a graveyard.[60]
  • In May 2011, Russian police arrested a man after finding half-eaten human remains in his fridge. The suspect, dubbed "Hannibal Lectrovsky", in reference to fictional killer Hannibal Lecter, was found in his home eating a human liver with potatoes with additional remains in a stew.[61]
  • In August 2011, police found the body parts of various people in serial killer Matej Curko's fridge, including the body parts of two Slovakian women who disappeared in 2010.[62]
  • In September 2011, German adventurer Stefan Ramin was murdered at the island of Nuku Hiva, while on a round-the-world trip with his partner. Authorities suspect that he was killed, dismembered and eaten by local guide Henri Haiti.[63]
  • In 2011, officials in South Korea received a tip that ethnic Koreans living in China were smuggling drug capsules into the country that contained powder made from dead babies, passing them off as stamina boosters. Customs officials wouldn't reveal who made the capsules or where the dead babies came from due to possible diplomatic friction, although the Chinese government is also investigating where the capsules came from. Reportedly, the capsules were made in northeastern China from dead fetuses whose bodies were chopped into small pieces and dried on stoves before being turned into powder. No one has been reported as having become sick as a result of ingesting the capsules.[64]
  • Dennis Storm and Valerio Zeno, the two presenters of the Dutch TV show Proefkonijnen, ate each other's flesh on air in December 2011. They were filmed having a piece of their muscle tissue surgically removed, which was then fried and eaten in front of a studio audience.[65]
  • On March 8, 2012, an angry father bit off the penis of his 6-year old son, while walking the streets where they lived in Beijing, China. The 32 year old father was reportedly in debt after a failed business venture and gambling losses. He was divorced from the children's mother, and another family member took care of his daughter after the incident. He is presumed to have a mental illness.[66]
  • In April 2012, a man and two women were arrested in the town of Garanhuns, Pernambuco, Brazil for murdering at least two women and eating their flesh. One of the female suspects is said to have used some of the flesh of her victims for making pasties, which she allegedly sold in the town.[67]
  • In April 2012, Jieming Liu, 79, was accused of killing his wife and eating some of her flesh in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The couple had immigrated from China in November 2011.[68]
  • In May 2012, Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, an exchange student from Ghana, was murdered by Alexander Kinyua in Maryland, United States. Kinyua had eaten Agyei-Kodies' organs in an act of cannibalism.
  • On May 26, 2012, police in Miami, Florida, shot and killed Rudy Eugene, 31, after he was found on the MacArthur Causeway naked and eating the face of Ronald Poppo, 65, who was homeless at the time.[69] Police believed that Eugene was under the influence of a synthetic drug, but the autopsy of Eugene showed only marijuana in his system.[70] A security camera at the headquarters of The Miami Herald caught the attack live on film, which quickly began making rounds on the internet.[71] Poppo has had facial surgery since the attack and is having treatment for his face.[72]
  • Luka Rocco Magnotta, a Canadian pornographic actor, killed a man and filmed himself chewing some part of the victim's body. He dismembered the victim and shipped the limbs to political parties and elementary schools. His video was posted on YouTube and spread on the internet.[73]
  • In July 2012, twenty-nine members of a cannibal cult were arrested in northeast Papua New Guinea after eating at least seven people (four men and three women) believed to be sorcerers.[74][75]
  • On December 26, 2012, Mridul Kumar Bhattacharya and his wife Rita Bhattacharya who owned tea gardens in Assam, India were murdered by an angry mob of workers. Cannibalism was later reported in the incident.[76]
  • On January 10, 2013, the Chinese cannibal Zhang Yongming, aged 57, was executed for his crimes. He sold victims’ flesh as ‘ostrich meat’ and kept eyeballs in wine.[77][78]
  • On May 2013, during the Syrian civil war, a rebel named Abu Sakkar was filmed cutting open the body of a fallen enemy soldier and biting into one of his organs – it is unclear whether it was a heart, a lung, or something else.[79]
  • On July 2013 Lino Renzi, aged 45, was found out while cooking some remains of his mother, Maria Pia Guariglia, aged 73, in his apartment by the police, called by a neighbour after smelling a disgusting odor coming from Renzi's apartment, probably caused by some intestine chunks burning on the grill. The cops discovered moreover several pieces of human body in a freezer, oven and pots, while most of the corpse, lying in the bathroom, featured severe mutilation to arms and legs, besides several intestine pieces removed. Later on, Renzi confessed his mother hadn't died of natural causes, but she'd been brutally beaten to death by himself after a quarrel, then dismembered into pieces with a saw and a butcher knife.[80][81]
  • In February 2014 a restaurant in Anambra, Nigeria was shut down for selling human flesh. Two human heads wrapped in cellophane were found at the restaurant.[82]


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