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Houston police seize would-be sex strangler

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A would-be Internet killer is behind bars and facing 20 years' jail after offering to dispatch a woman he met in a suicide chat room, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Edward Frank Manuel, 55, of Houston, apparently arranged to strangle the Wisconsin woman during sex, place a yellow rose on her chest and then bury her in a Texas forest.

The woman agreed to meet Manual at Houston bus terminal, where police swooped on him and his car, which contained yellow roses and "a device for strangling". Who exactly alerted the authorities is unclear, although the "victim" attended the rendezvous as part of a planned police operation.

Manuel's arrest follows the recent case of a 41-year-old German charged with murder and cannibalism after killing another man he met on the Internet.

The man placed an advert "Seeking young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter" which soon attracted a willing victim who, having sold all his possessions, disappeared from the face of the earth only to turn up later in a freezer in Rotenberg, central Germany.

The Japanese have also embraced the possibilities of Internet death pacts. An October 2002 BBC report details the sad tale of a 46-year-old dentist and 25-year-old woman who met in a suicide chat room and subsequently killed themselves with sleeping pills.

Japanese police say that there are many such sites in Japan. In 1998, a Tokyo woman shuffled off this mortal coil with potassium cyanide bought from an Internet suicide service. Appropriately, the man responsible for this humanitarian service later departed this life at his own hand.

Meanwhile, there are few clues as to the identity of the Wisconsin woman responsible for Edward Frank Manuel's arrest. The original suicide chat room has - unsurprisingly - disappeared, although this allegedly genuine posting appears elsewhere. It poses interesting questions as to her real motives for frequenting suicide chat rooms in the first place:

Originally Posted By Crazy/Suicide Chat Room Girl:
Any notions I'd had about serial killers being interesting, complex people went out the window. Aside from Rabbit's sex-death-strangulation fetish, he was quite dull and boring. (He wasn't even as smart as I had expected. I guess I thought all serial killers would be charismatic, bright Bundy types. They apparently are not.)

Poor dull, boring Manuel is scheduled to appear in court on 28 January.

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