Monday, July 15, 2024

Exploring cannabilistic killers

On the 11th June 2014 South African Police confirmed that a 62-year-old man was stabbed to death, had his heart ripped out and had it eaten with a fork and knife by his alleged killer. Police Spokesperson FC van Wyk told eNCA News that, “A suspect, Nomonde Soloshe a Zimbabwean national was found on the scene busy eating the heart of a human with a knife and fork.” Van Wyk said. He was according to witnesses muttering the words” I am king” as he consumed the heart of his victim.

He also stated that: “Officials were informed that the victim, whose name has not been released, had been stabbed in the left side of his chest and in his neck and had a bite mark on the right side of his face.” According to him, the victim’s girlfriend told police that while the couple were sitting in their home, the suspect arrived and gave her money to buy liquor, which she did. She said she returned to discover the suspect stabbing the victim to death.┬á

Commissioner Sharon Jephta said: “It was very gruesome. We had to debrief our members and offer them support and put a further support system in place for them. We did that with those who were present in the house as well.”

After this rather shocking crime hit the news, many people had questions about this phenomenon. So what exactly is cannibalism and where is it most commonly encountered in criminal cases?


Cannibalism is feeding on one’s own species, and sexual cannibalism is the sexualisation of feeding on one’s own species. Anthropophagy is the technical term for cannibalism. It is often considered a psychosexual or fetish disorder. This is basically because Anthropophagy is often included among the sexual disorders. There have been limited and largely unsuccessful efforts to get it classified as an eating disorder or lifestyle preference.

The term cannibalism derives from the name of the West Indian Carib tribe, first documented by the explorer Christopher Columbus. The Carib tribe was alleged to eat others, as where the Aztecs who practiced exocannibalism or the ritual religious sacrifice and eating of war captives, strangers, and enemies. The Celts and Aboriginal Australians are believed to have practiced a different kind of cannibalism – endocannibalism – the consumption of friends and relatives as part of releasing the soul of the dead.

Anglo-American law recognizes cannibalism as a necessity defence under the choice-of-evils doctrine. In the case of The Queen v. Dudley and Stephans, the facts involved were that the occupants of a lifeboat were starving and had no other choice but to eat the weaker occupants of the boat to survive, which they did. This is more formally known as survival cannibalism, and is quite different from sexual cannibalism.   

No exact figures or estimates exist on the prevalence or patterns of cannibalism, particularly lustful cannibalism, which is assumed to be the most common variety. It is surprising how much language about it has saturated our culture. Lovers frequently refer to each other as “honey”, “cookie”, or “sweetie pie”, and similarly, those who quarrel are said to make “biting” remarks or “chew” each other out. One could say our culture is permeated with the signs, symbols, and myths of cannibalism.

The subject of cannibalism has always been surrounded by myth, rumour, and speculation. There have been few, if any, eyewitness accounts of it. Interpretation of historical accounts that ancient and primitive societies practiced cannibalism is a matter of debate among anthropologists. Evidence that people practiced cannibalism during periods of famine, disaster, prison overcrowding, and the siege of cities during war is also sketchy and inconsistent.

Given the absence of serious, solid research into cannibalism, it should come as no surprise that the subject of sexual cannibalism is likewise filled with myth, rumour, speculation, and in addition, fantasy. It is, however, in the arena of sexual sadism, a tradition that goes back at least to Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), that sexual cannibalism has made the most inroads into public consciousness. Serial killing, in particular, has provided a fruitful area for public panic over satanistic child abuse rituals and possibly related sexual cannibalistic rituals. In the case of Satanism, the ritual connection is understandable since the cannibalism may be a copy of perceived cannibalism in the communion ritual of Catholicism. Because the most well-documented accounts of sexual cannibalism have involved serial killers, this article will primarily explore to the cannibalistic practices of sexual serial killers.


The first known cannibal killer in American history presumably began as a case of survival cannibalism. Alfred Packer was a Colorado mountain guide during the 1880s who hired himself out to would-be gold prospectors anxious to reach California. He allegedly ate his first employers during a particularly cold and difficult trip through the mountains. Other victims started adding up, but one got away and described their guide, who was normally a nice guy, as suddenly turning on them, like a “mad dog” in some sort of feeding seizure or frenzy. The “Mad Dog Killer” and his kind became the stuff of American legend in the Old West. There’s nothing sexual about this case except perhaps for elements of the seizure or frenzy, which is believed, by most modern interpreters, to have been a form of epilepsy rather than sexual attack.
┬áThe next known case was “America bogeyman” Albert Fish, remorseless torturer, murderer, necrophile,(a fetish involving having sexual relations with deceased people) and cannibal. During the 1920s, he raped, killed and ate part of the flesh of at least 15 little girls. He claimed to prefer the taste of virgins. He sent cruel letters to the parents of his victims saying how delicious they were, and one of these notes also claimed he learned cannibalism from a sea captain who told him the practice of eating children was common in Hong Kong during times of famine. Most modern authorities believe Fish was mostly a sadomasochist, however.

When authorities tried to electrocute him in 1936, he had so many needles self-inserted inside his body that he short-circuited the electric chair.??The 1950s brought the shocking case of Edward Gein, who throughout that decade operated a human butchering farm in Wisconsin. He was the inspiration for several movies, from Psycho to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. His knowledge of anatomy, dissection skills, and fondness for eating human organs was the inspiration for the character of Hannibal the Cannibal in the movie Silence of the Lambs. His fondness for wearing human skin as clothing, and also making furniture out of it, was also the inspiration for the character Buffalo Bill in the same movie. Photographs taken by law enforcement agents of the Gein residence, and especially of the smokehouse where headless torsos were hanging, are easily found in many publications. Many modern experts believe Gein was acting out a hatred against his mother, and indeed, the legal system declared him insane, and he died peacefully in a mental health hospital.

The 1960s were relatively silent, but in the 1970s, several serial killers were active, and cannibalism as well as necrophilia were involved in two cases. Some modern authorities, mostly criminal profilers, believe that cannibalism and necrophilia could be co-occurring psychopathologies. The first case, around 1972, was Arthur Shawcross, a missionary type serial killer who preyed on prostitutes in the Rochester, New York area. He consistently denied the killings, but the bodies of 12 victims were pinned on him. He killed them in his car, and then dragged their dead bodies out to a remote location to have sex with them. He claimed cannibalism as part of an insanity defence at trial where he also claimed to have learned the practice from eating dead babies while serving as a soldier during the Vietnam war. Clever cross-examination repudiated this part of his defence, and to this day, it is unknown if he was telling the truth or not. Many modern authorities believe his actions may have been due to his having 47 chromosomes, the extra one being a “Y” chromosome. The second case, around 1976, was Edward Cole, a Nevada resident responsible for at least 15 victims, and again, in what was perhaps an attempt at an insanity plea, he claimed to have cannibalized at least one victim and to have first started killing at age 10. Also a missionary type killer, he targeted what he called “loose women” and slept with their bodies in their apartments for days sometimes after he killed them.??Cases in the 1970s were Gary Heidnik, Edmund Kemper, Richard Chase, and Otis Toole. Gary Heidnik ran a sex slave operation in Philadelphia where he forced the women he kept in captivity to eat the cooked flesh of any other woman who died in captivity. Edmund Kemper, a serial killer who selected co-ed victims who looked like his mother, said that he ate their body parts so they could be part of him. Richard Chase became known as the Sacramento vampire killer, and he reportedly made milk shakes out of the flesh and blood of his victims. Otis Toole was the mildly retarded, homosexual partner of Henry Lee Lucas, the serial killer who claimed the most victims (about 200). While Henry was not a cannibal, but a necrophile, Otis was rather outspoken about his own cannibalism and it being a side benefit for assisting Henry in his many crimes.??The 1980s and 1990s had two popular cases, one in Russia (dubbed the Soviet Hannibal Lecter) and the other in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Russian was Andrei Chikatilo, also known as Citizen X, who apparently had developed a taste for boiling and eating the testicles of his victims who were young boys and the nipples of his victims who were young girls (total victim count 58). The case in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was Jeffrey Dahmer, a 31-year old single white male who preferred the dark-skinned meat of ethnic young boys (victim count 16) he would pick up around gay bars. When police eventually broke into his apartment after complaints about the smell, they found severed heads in the refrigerator, torsos stored in barrels, genitalia stored in pots, and the whole area littered with scraps of human flesh, over 100 pounds total. At his insanity hearing, Dahmer said he had a consuming lust to experience their bodies and that he only cannibalized the victims he liked.??┬á┬á┬á There have, of course, been other sexual cannibals involved in serial killing. The case of Ottis Toole with the cannibal as sidekick is not that uncommon. John Wayne Gacy was suspected of having accomplices who were cannibals. There may have, of course, been other sexual cannibals who were not in any way associated with serial killing, but with experimentation in the varieties of lovemaking or the necessity of maintaining a food preference. What is mostly known about sexual cannibalism is unfortunately derived from a rather unique sample of sadistic criminals and misfits who may or may not be representative of the population as a whole.


Within the field of psychology there is a debate on what factors lead a person to practice criminal cannibalism. There are a many theories which have been presented, ranging from the over nurturing of a child during the first few months of their life to experiencing sudden stress as in the case of Dahmer. Evidence taken during psychological interviews with cannibals supports to a degree the contention that aggression towards the mother may be one possible factor in a person’s cannibalism, such as with the case of Ed Kemper.

Many cannibals, such as Andrei Chikatilo, Albert Fish, Edward Gein, and Issei Sagawa, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is defined in Rebers Dictionary of Psychology as a; “general label for a number of psychotic disorders with various cognitive, emotional and behavioural manifestations reflecting a cleavage or dissociation between functions of feeling and emotion as well as a dissociation between thinking and cognition.”

Reber points at several common characteristic of schizophrenia, including thought disturbance, delusions, hallucinations and a loss of reality. This diagnosis might help explain the experiences many cannibals claim to feel prior to, during and after their cannibalistic activities, including black-outs, heightened sense of self and of the experience, hallucinations and other forms of disorganized thoughts or behaviour.

Most acts of criminal cannibalism are to a degree, probably motivated by the offenders desire to express power or control over the victim. Cannibalism is the ultimate expression of dominance over another person, and this could be motivated by feelings of hostility and/or fear, creating an overriding need to exert power, revenge or control over the victim by murdering and then consuming him, simultaneously achieving intense sexual and gratification. Revenge, power and control, in my opinion was the most likely motive behind the killing of the South African victim by Nomonde Soloshe detailed above.

Whatever the motives it is clear that more research is required into the field. Fortunately, according to the Botswana Police, there have been no cases involving Cannibalism to date in Botswana. Let’s hope it stays that way!

Expert Profiling is contactable on Tel: 390 9957 email – [email protected] or [email protected] or on Twitter @LauriePieters.


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