This is the real-life Sweeney Todd who claimed he turned his murder victims into burgers and sold them

This is the real-life Sweeney Todd who claimed he turned his murder victims into burgers and sold them

Everyone knows about Sweeney Todd, right? The original tale was inspired by the probably fictional story of a barber who murdered one of his customers.

If you're not familiar, it goes as such: a barber and his client are making small talk, when the man in the chair begins bragging about a woman he has slept with the night before. At first, the barber is intrigued, and asks his client more about the woman. The more the guy talks, however, the more the barber realises that the woman being described is his own wife and - in a fit of rage - slits the customer's throat with his razor.

This then got developed over the years, until eventually it became the tale of Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. In the now well-known iteration of the tale, Todd works with his neighbour, Mrs. Lovett, to turn his clients into meat pies which are then fed to the unsuspecting public.

And, as horrific as it sounds, that addition to the tale is somewhat true to real life - or, at least, it was in the case of Joe Metheny, a murderer who claimed he turned his victims into burgers.

Though he had a criminal record for earlier offences, Metheny was not known to be a particularly violent offender as a young man. He'd not done badly at school, had served in Vietnam, and had overcome a traumatic childhood in order to settle down with his family.

Unfortunately, that all changed when his wife left him in July 1994, taking their six-year-old son with her.

Metheny was outraged, especially when he discovered that she had left him for another man, and was selling drugs and engaging in prostitution in order to make a living. His ex-wife was originally caught for these offences and, when she was sent to jail, Metheny was denied custody of his child.

In an act of revenge, the distraught father plotted to kill his ex and her new partner, and found that there was one location they often stayed at to conduct their "business". When he went there, however, they were nowhere to be found. Instead, there were two homeless men that Metheny recognised as people who had bought drugs from his ex before.

So he killed and dismembered them with an axe.

According to his own eventual supposed confession, Metheny went on to kill three more people that same night: two women he beat, raped and interrogated about the whereabouts of his ex-wife, and one man he feared may have witnessed the crime.

But none of these individuals would end up in his food. That apparently came later.

A couple of weeks after these initial attacks, Metheny was arrested for the murders of the two homeless men. After being charged, he spent 18 months in jail awaiting trial for the killings. When that time eventually came, however, he was acquitted on account of a lack of evidence.

He was never apprehended for the murder of the other three.

Upon his release, Metheny got a new job in a factory, and found himself a trailer to live in on the company's premises. It was at the end of a secluded lane - perfect for a man who'd acquired a taste for murder.

Not long after his stint in jail, Metheny tracked down and killed two more prostitutes with known drug addictions. Rather than dispose of them this time, however, he claims cut the women up and stored the 'meatiest' bits in tupperware containers in his freezer. Everything else, he buried in the woods behind his home.

And this is where it gets really gruesome.

Metheny says he then went on to open a food stand from his trailer, where he sold burgers and barbecue meat sandwiches to nearby residents and workers at the factory. But it wasn't just pork and beef in them. Along with the regular meats, Metheny had mixed in parts of his murder victims - and his customers apparently unwittingly helped him get rid of the evidence by eating them.

"The human body tastes very similar to pork," he would reportedly eventually say in an unverified supposed confession posted online. "If you mix it together no one can tell the difference."

His undoing came about when he eventually ran out of his "special meat".

Now with a yearning for human flesh, Metheny decided he needed to continue his killing spree in order to maintain a steady supply of product. This time around, however, he was careless, and the woman he targeted managed to get away before he could kill her - but after he had told her about his previous crimes.

She contacted the police, who very soon tracked him down. He confessed and was sentenced to death on two counts of murder, but later had this commuted to a life sentence.

What's most disturbing about this whole case is that nobody is sure of how many people Metheny really killed. He said that he had claimed 10 lives in total, but he was never charged with their murders - nor did he appear to show any remorse for his actions, either. In fact, he once said his only regret was that he did not kill his ex-wife and her new partner.

Metheny eventually met his end last year, in 2017, and was found dead in his prison cell at the age of 62.