Meredith Kercher's murder: the three versions
(Richard Owen, The Times, October 27, 2008)
On the evening of 1 November Amanda Knox, an American student from Seattle, together with Raffaele Sollecito, her Italian boyfriend from Bari, studying computer science, and Rudy Guede, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast with a record of petty crime who played basketball and moved on the fringes of the student community, all arrive at the whitewashed hillside cottage which Ms Knox shared with Meredith Kercher and two female Italian students, who were away. After the revelries of Hallowe'en the night before, Ms Kercher had spent the afternoon quietly with two British female students watching a film.
However she returned home to find the other three intent on a drugs-fuelled sexual orgy in which she refused to take part. She was forced to her knees in her bedroom and held down by Mr Guede and Mr Sollecito while Ms Knox cut her throat. Mr Guede then fled to Germany while Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito attempted to clean up the cottage and smashed a window to simulate a break in.
Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito:
They spent the evening and night of the crime at Mr Sollecito's flat and so could not have taken part in the murder, which was committed by a thief. Defence lawyers for Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito have indicated that the thief was Mr Guede, whose DNA was found on Ms Kercher's body, on her bloodstained pillow, on her bag and on toilet tissue. However the prosecution says Ms Knox's DNA was on the presumed murder weapon, a kitchen knife, together with the victim's, as well as in the bidet and basin, and that Mr Sollecito's DNA is on Ms Kercher's bra strap.
In a surprise twist a forensic scientist acting for the Sollecito defence team has testified that Ms Knox's and Mr Sollecito's DNA are also on the torn and bloodstained bra, while insisting that the traces are too contaminated to be useable as proof. When arrested, Ms Knox at first said she had heard Ms Kercher's screams but later withdrew this saying she had given evidence under duress and without a lawyer present. She also named Patrick Diya Lumumba, a Perugia bar owner from the Congo for whom both Ms Knox and Ms Kercher had worked, as the murderer. Mr Lumumba was arrested but later released.
He says he had made a date with Ms Kercher to have sex but had not had a condom and had in any case had to go to the bathroom with stomach pains after eating a spicy kebab. In the bathroom he had iPod earphones on but eventually heard screams and on emerging found a man, who he at one point said "resembled" Mr Sollecito standing over Ms Kercher's body with a knife in his hand. The two men scuffled and Mr Guede was injured in the hand. The man then escaped together with a woman, identified by Mr Guede's defence team as Ms Knox, whom Mr Guede did not see, though he heard her voice at the door.
Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito committed the murder because Ms Knox and Ms Kercher had fallen out badly, latterly over stolen cash, Mr Guede's defence team says, and they pulled her clothes off to make it look like a sexual attack. Mr Guede tried to staunch the flow of Ms Kercher's blood but panicked and fled, first to Milan and then to Germany, because he feared he would be assumed to be the killer. He was arrested for not having a train ticket, identified and extradited to Italy.
Decision nears in Italy in case of slain Briton
(By MARTA FALCONI, Associated Press, October 27, 2008)
PERUGIA, Italy (AP) " Prosecutors rejected claims Monday that police contaminated evidence used for its case and requested an American woman and her former Italian boyfriend stand trial for killing a British student.
The prosecution closed its arguments Monday at the courthouse in Perugia, central Italy, and a judge is expected to rule Tuesday whether Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito will go on trial for the killing.
Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old student from Leeds University in England, was found dead in her bedroom Nov. 2 from a stab wound to the neck. Prosecutors say she was killed while an unwilling participant of a sex game.
They also asked that a third suspect, Rudy Hermann Guede of Ivory Coast, be sentenced to life. Guede is undergoing a fast-track trial at his request.
All suspects, who appeared in court Monday, deny wrongdoing.
Prosecutors claim that key evidence linking Sollecito to the death is from his DNA found on the victim's bra.
But Sollecito's defense argued in the closed-doors hearing that multiple DNA traces were found on the bra " not just from one person " suggesting the evidence was inadvertently contaminated by police. Lawyers said the traces were compatible with the DNA of fellow suspects Knox and Guede, as well as of other people.
"This is not a genetic trace belonging to one single person but it's a mix, a combination resulting from contamination, obviously involuntary, and therefore should not be admitted as evidence in court," one of Sollecito's lawyers, Giulia Bongiorno, said. She cited an examination by a defense team expert.
Prosecutor Manuela Comodi said during a break in the proceedings that "we gave a substantially different interpretation on the same elements" than the defense, including the bra.
Rudy Guede guilty of Meredith Kercher murder, Amanda Knox faces trial
(Richard Owen, The Times, October 28, 2008)
An immigrant who turned his back on his adoptive family and drifted into a life of petty crime was found guilty and sentenced tonight to 30 years’ jail for the murder and sexual assault of the British student Meredith Kercher, who was killed in Perugia one year ago.
In a separate ruling, Amanda Knox, Ms Kercher’s American flatmate, and Ms Knox’s former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who have been in custody ever since the crime, were ordered to stand trial on 4 December for Ms Kercher’s death.
Rudy Guede, 21, who was arrested after fleeing to Germany and extradited to Italy, had opted for a fast-track trial in the hope of a reduced sentence if found guilty. The prosecution had asked for a life term. Walter Biscotti, Guede’s lawyer, told The Times he would lodge an immediate appeal.
Ms Kercher’s parents, John and Arlene, her sister Stephanie and brother Lyle were in court in Perugia to hear the ruling by the judge, Paolo Micheli. The family had also attended the opening of the pre-trial hearings for Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito in September, when they said they hoped for justice for the daughter and announced they would seek 25 million euros in compensation.
Commenting on Guede's conviction, Francesco Maresca, the Kercher family's lawyer said: "We are very satisfied, even though it means this young man now faces a very heavy sentence."
Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor, said he would take five days to consider requests by the defence for the pair to be released from prison and placed under house arrest while awaiting trial, which will not begin until next year. In the closing stages of the pre-trial hearings Mr Mignini rejected claims police had contaminated DNA evidence placing all three suspects at the scene of the crime.
The prosecution alleged that the three took part in a drug-fuelled Hallowe’en sex party in which Ms Kercher, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was an unwilling participant and which ended with her death. She was found on November 2 last year half naked and with her throat cut under a duvet in the bedroom of the cottage she shared with Ms Knox. The pathologist said she had died a “slow and agonising death”.
According to a prosecution reconstruction Guede and Mr Sollecito held Ms Kercher down after she had been forced to her knees, while Ms Knox stabbed her in the throat. Much of the pre-trial process has centred on the DNA evidence, which forms the crux of the prosecution case.
Mr Guede admitted he was at the cottage on the evening of the crime, but claimed he was innocent and that Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito had sought to frame him for the murder. His lawyers had argued there was nothing to link him to the presumed murder weapon, a kitchen knife that had traces of the DNA of Ms Knox and Ms Kercher but not of Guede.
His defence was that he had met Ms Kercher the previous evening " Hallowe’en " that he had arranged a “romantic” date with her, that he went to the cottage on the fateful evening but that he did not murder her. Instead, he says, they made an unsuccessful attempt to have consensual sex, after which he went to the bathroom with stomach pains because of the spicy kebab he had eaten.
He had his iPod earphones on but heard Meredith’s screams and emerged to find a man standing over her bloodied body holding a knife, with whom he struggled. The man allegedly fled, saying “you’re in trouble, you black bastard”, accompanied by a woman whose voice Guede heard but whose face he did not see.
The man with the knife, Guede’s lawyers claimed in the pre-trial hearings, was Mr Sollecito, and the woman was Miss Knox.
But police said Guede’s DNA was almost everywhere else " on the victim’s body, her tampon, her bag, and on toilet tissue. His bloodstained handprint was on her pillow, and footprints on her bedroom floor matched trainers found at his flat.
He fled to Germany via Milan after the murder but was arrested near Mainz for travelling on a train without a ticket. Within weeks he was extradited to Italy.
Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito now face the prospect of several more weeks in an Italian jail before their trial proper begins.
The American is said to have passed a note to her lawyers during the final pre-trial hearing on Monday saying: “This is a horrible moment for me. I feel terrible. I am not a killer.”
During the hearings an Albanian witness told the judge he had seen Guede, Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito together outside the hillside cottage the night before the murder. Mr Mignini said this proved the three had colluded, and may have met for a “dress rehearsal”.
As Hallowe’en " which formed a macabre backdrop to the murder, with Ms Kercher dressing as a vampire the night before she was killed " again approaches, the case has brought what town officials call "the wrong kind of publicity" to the picturesque hilltop town of Perugia. “Meredith Murder: The Day of Judgement” placards proclaimed outside the newsagent opposite the courthouse.
The hillside whitewashed cottage where the killing took place " still sealed off with police tape " has become a gruesome tourist sight, and the number of British and other foreign students at the nearby University for Foreigners has fallen.