Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Cannibal Celebrity: Issei Sagawa

Lust for Flesh, Part IV

Joachim Kroll
Joachim Kroll

Joachim Kroll: He started to rape and kill in 1955 when he was 22, and continued for two decades in the Duisberg area of Germany. At one point on a whim, he tasted the flesh from a murdered woman and found that he liked it. Thereafter, he stalked women or girls that he thought would yield tender meat and left their bodies to be discovered, sans pieces of flesh cut mostly from the buttocks. Many of them were young, and one was only four-years-old. When police finally nabbed him, they found a kettle on his stove boiling carrots and potatoes along with a tiny female hand.

Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole: These men worked as a team from the time they met in 1976, and after they were caught and imprisoned, both confessed to an unbelievably high number of murders, and later Lucas recanted many of them. Then he said he'd been forced to recant.  Toole claimed to be a cannibal, but Lucas said that he'd abstained because he did not like the taste of barbecue sauce.

Henry Lee Lucas, police photo
Henry Lee Lucas,
police photo

Alfred Packer: This was the first case of cannibalism to have been tried in the U.S. Courts, and while he has many supporters to this day who believe his consumption of human flesh was justified by starvation, a modern forensic analysis has dispelled all doubt about what he really did.  

In 1874, Packer was hired to guide five prospectors through the Colorado Mountains, the youngest of whom was a teenager. Six weeks after they set out, Packer came alone into the Los Pinos Indian Agency looking fit and well-fed, and spending money from several wallets. He claimed that the harsh weather had killed the others, but then strips of human flesh were found along the trail. That cast some doubt on his shifting story. A few months later, the five skeletons were located, and Packer fled across the state line.

Nine years went by before he was caught and brought to Lake City, Colorado, for trial. A prospector who had seen the victims in their decomposing state described hatchet wounds on one of the skulls, and on slim evidence Packer was convicted of premeditated murder. In a second trial, held due to legislative error, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to forty years in prison. Eventually supporters won him a pardon in 1901. His reputation restored, he was viewed as a victim of circumstances.

Then a forensic expedition in 1989 exhumed the bones, which were in a surprisingly good state of preservation, and the analysis was conclusive: there were defensive wounds on some of the victims, and clear evidence that they had been attacked by a hatchet and defleshed by a knife. Packer had been an outright cannibal.

Daniel Rakowitz: In Manhattan's Lower East Side in 1989, this demented man walked around Tompkins Square Park bragging that he'd killed his girlfriend, Monica Beerle. He said that he'd boiled her head and made soup from her brain. He'd tasted it and liked it, and thereafter referred to himself as a cannibal.

Arthur Shawcross, police photo
Arthur Shawcross,
police photo

Arthur Shawcross: He killed 11 women in Rochester, New York, from 1989-1990, and while evaluated for insanity, he claimed that he'd consumed the parts of one of his victims after returning to the crime scene. Postmortem mutilation with missing pieces became part of his MO after the eighth victim, so defense psychiatrists believed him. However, his insanity plea was rejected and he was sentenced to life without parole.

Thus, Issei Sagawa is not alone in his penchant for human flesh.  Let's return to him to see how he put his plan into motion.


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