Being an account of the increasingly bizarre circumstances surrounding the murder of one British student in Italy on the night of the 1st and 2nd November 2007.
1. Meredith Kercher
Known to her friends as Mez, twenty-one year old Meredith Kercher from Coulsdon, near Croydon in Surrey was a student at the University of Leeds who had travelled to Perugia in central Italy to spend a year studying Italian at the University for Foreigners under the European Union's Erasmus exchange programme. Having made her way to Italy for the beginning of the academic term in 2007, she soon made herself at home and even found herself an Italian boyfriend named Giacomo Silenzi who lived on the ground floor of the same building at Via della Pergola 7, which she shared a flat with an American student named Amanda Knox and two Italians, Romanelli Filomena and Laura Mezzetti.
Meredith spent the evening of Thursday, the 1st November at the home a friend Sophie Purton, where she had a meal of pizza and cake, and watched a DVD of The Notebook before returning home alone at around 9.00 pm. It was on the following day that an elderly neighbour Lana Elisabetta discovered two mobile phones lying in the garden of her home at the Via Sperandi. She contacted the 'Postal Police' who traced the ownership of one phone to Romanelli Filomena and therefore turned up at Meredith's home at 12.35pm. There they found Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who claimed to be awaiting the arrival of the Carabinieri, as they believed that there had been a break-in. They were joined soon afterwards by Romanelli Filomena, who confirmed that that she'd lent the phone to Meredith, and seemed concerned that her friend had left both phones switched off.
The police therefore decided to break down the door into Meredith's locked room where they found what was later described as a "horrifying scene" with "bloodstains everywhere, on the floor and on the wall". Meredith Kercher's partially clothed body was found under a duvet in her room. Her throat had been cut and there were signs of severe brusing to her neck and body. The post mortem examination later revealed she had been killed with a small pocket knife sometime between midnight and 2.00 am earlier that day.
Since the door to her ground floor room was locked from the inside, the police conjectured that she had known her killer and were working on the theory that she had met her killer at a party held on the 31st October. They apparently believed that she had taken part in 'sexual activity' before her death, although it appeared to be unclear as to whether or not she had been raped, and that her attacker had subsequently made his escape through the window that led into a small rear garden. All in all it appeared to be nothing more than a common or garden sex murder with nothing particular of note other than the fact that the 2nd November is celebrated in Italy as 'Il Giorno dei Morti', the Day of the Dead.
2. Foxy Knoxy
The Carabinieri naturally interviewed Meredith's boyfriend Giacomo Silenzi (rapidly eliminated as a suspect because he was out of town with his family on the day it happened) as well as her flatmates. Whilst the two Italians were at a party that night and did not return to the flat until the following morning, matters turned out to be a little more complicated as far as the other flatmate, an American student from Seattle, Washington named Amanda Knox was concerned.
Amanda Knox, who had the bedroom next door to Meredith, was initially interviewed by police on the 2nd November, when she claimed that she had spent the whole evening and night with her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. For some reason the Italian police were not convinced by this story. This may well have had something to do with the contents of her MySpace profile, in which she referred to herself as 'Foxy Knoxy' and featured such material as a story entitled Baby Brother which described how a young woman was drugged and raped. Her boyfriend Sollecito similarly had an internet blog which featured a photograph of himself dressed as a mummy and waving a meat cleaver, whilst he proclaimed his desire to try "extreme experiences".
All of this later turned out to be manna from heaven for both the Italian and British press, who were more than happy to reveal the 'shocking details' of 'Foxy Knoxy's' hedonistic lifestyle in Italy, once freed from the constraints of Jesuit school and the University of Washington in Seattle. The Italian press came to the conclusion that Perugia was the 'new Ibiza', which La Repubblica described as "a world of studies, parties, drugs, drink, sex, pubs and discos", whilst in the UK the Daily Mail was more than happy to portray Knox as "promiscuous, party-loving and self-obsessed". The Mail gleefully recounted how Knox had been fined $269 at Municipal Court in Seattle some four months previously for organising a party which degenerated into ""bedlam, with drink, drugs and bodies everywhere" and where "some people were naked inside the bedrooms". They also found an acquaintance who was prepared to state that Knox "really used drink and drugs" and that she had "developed a deep, abiding desire for casual sex". Later reports also made much of her demeanor at the waiting room in the police station on the evening of the 2nd November, at which she time she appeared to be rather proud to have been present when Meredith's body was discovered, and the fact that she had spent the following day shopping for 'sexy lingerie' with her boyfriend.
In any event the police decided to place an intercept on Knox's mobile phone and therefore overheard her telling her boyfriend on the evening of Monday, 5th November; "I cannot do it any more, I cannot bear it." Naturally curious as to what Knox couldn't do any more, they organised a series of 'dawn raids' on the following morning. Once under police interrogation, Knox apparently burst into tears and broke down at 5.45am and confessed that her previous statement was not an accurate account of events. As it happens what she told the police this time around soon became public knowledge as the Corriere della Sera published leaked extracts from the police statements which were duly reproduced in the Daily Telegraph, The Times and various other British newspapers.
It transpired that Knox had a part-time job at a local bar some ten minutes walk away from her home named Le Chic, which was owned by a Congolese immigrant named Diya Lumumba, who went by the name of Patrick. Knox claimed that she was "really scared" of Patrick, and that as far as Meredith was concerned "Diya wanted her" and therefore agreed to set up a meeting between the two. According to this version of events Amanda Knox met Patrick Lumumba at around 9.00pm on the evening of the 1st November at a basketball court in Piazza Grimana in Perugia and then went to her house. She apparently couldn't remember if Meredith was already at home at that point or came home later. In any event "Patrick and Meredith went off into Meredith's room while I stayed in the kitchen. I can't remember how long they were in there together - I can only say that at one point I heard Meredith screaming and I was so frightened I blocked my ears." She then heard "thuds" and could "imagine what was happening" but claimed that "I don't remember anything after that - my head's all confused." (Said confusion may or may not have something to do with the quantities of cannabis which it is said she and her boyfriend had taken that afternoon.) Although she couldn't remember if her boyfriend Raffaele was there that night she did remember waking up in his bed at his house and that I went back to my house where I found the door open."
Raffaele Sollecito similarly made a statement that he was with Knox from 1.00 or 2.00pm that day until around 8.30 or 9.00pm when she went off to meet Patrick Lumumba. He then went home alone, before Knox returned to his house at around 1.00am and the couple went to bed. (Although he apparently couldn't remember whether they had sex or not.) Knox then got up the next morning and went home for a shower at around 10.30am. She came back around 11.30am claiming that she had found the door wide open and what she thought were traces of blood in a bathroom. Both she and Sollecito then returned to the house, tried Meredith's door and found that it was locked and were unable to break the door down. Sollecito then called his sister for advice. As a police lieutenant she naturally told him to call 121 and he was just about to do so when the Polizia Postale arrived having been alerted by the elderly neighbour.
Of course this wasn't what he'd told police the first time round when he'd supported his girlfriend's story, or as he put it himself; "In my previous statement I told a load of rubbish because Amanda had convinced me of her version of the facts and I didn't think about the inconsistencies."
3. Case Closed
At this point the Italian police regarded "the case to be cut and dried". The chief of police in Perugia, one Arturo De Felice, was quoted as stating that the inquiry into Ms Kercher’s murder was "concluded". Having now aprehended Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Patrick Lumumba, he was of the opinion that "all three took part in the act", and that Merdeith Kercher had been "morally upright" and had died during the course of a sexual act which "must be considered of a violent nature" and carried out in a "a particularly intimidating context". It therefore appeared that the Italian police had concluded that Meredith Kercher had been killed after refusing to take part in a violent orgy, or as The Sun put it under the headline of 'Meredith: Orgy of Death', she had been killed by "three lust-crazed pals as she fought off a savage sex attack".
Under Italian law suspects may be detained in custody without charge if a judge believes that there is a risk that they might flee justice, tamper with evidence or re-offend. (Given of course that there is enough evidence to suggest that they will be charged.) A hearing was therefore held at a prison near Perugia on Thursday 8th November to determine the immediate fate of the three accused. On the 9th November Judge Claudia Matteini issued her ruling and concluded that since there were "serious indications of guilt" all three should remain in custody while the investigation continued.
The judge's nineteen page report on the case was then comprehensively leaked to the Italian press. Whilst, according to The Sun, the report contained much detail that was "too graphic to print", this apparently left much detail that could be printed. In particular it was revealed that the post mortem had found bruising on Meredith's lips and gums, and on her left cheek and chin; said injuries being consistent with her being forcibly held down, whilst the Italian forensic services had found a fingerprint on the victim's face which they believed to be that of Amanda Knox, thereby suggesting that it was she that was doing the holding. There were also marks on her neck that suggested she had been threatened with a knife, specifically two shallow cuts on her neck and a third deeper cut that proved to be the fatal wound, although according to the report produced by a pathologist Luca Lalli this "wound did not affect the carotid artery and so death was slow and painful". (Which allowed the Daily Mirror to cheer everybody up by running the headline 'Two hours to Bleed to Death'.)
Three bloodied shoe footprints were found on the bedsheets beneath Meredith's body, one of which was "compatible in shape and size with the sole of shoes confiscated from Raffaele Sollecito", whilst a flick knife found in his flat was "compatible with the possible weapon" used to inflict the wounds. This was presumably the same three inch flick knife he had in his pocket when he was first questioned, and which he told his father Franco during an intercepted phone call that "those stupid policemen" had failed to find.
4. Tomorrow or this evening Meredith dies
On the morning of 31st October a Rome shop assistant named Mauro Palmieri received a text message with the words: "As far as I am concerned tomorrow or this evening Meredith dies." When he then heard of Meredith Kercher's death on television two days later, it apparently came as "quite a shock". He reported it to the Carabinieri in Rome, who passed on the details to their counterparts in Perugia.
Although Signor Palmieri had no known links to any of those involved in the case and had only been to Perugia once on a school outing some twenty-five years previously, this was apparently seriously considered as being evidence that the murder may have been premeditated. However it later transpired that the text message referred to the entirely fictional Meredith Grey from the television series Grey's Anatomy, given that Italian TV broadcast an episode featuring the possible death of the character on the 31st October.
5. Diya Lumbaba
Diya Lumbaba was originally from the Congo and apparently claimed to be the grandson of the assassinated Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, which might explain his adoption of the name Patrick. As far as Diya or Patrick Lumbaba was concerned he consistently claimed that he was working in his bar throughout the evening of 1st November, and indeed his lawyer Carlo Pacelli stated that "He was never in the house of horrors. He has slept soundly in prison, without a blot on his conscience." Indeed, although admitted exchanging text messages with Knox, he claimed they were innocuous and related to her work at his bar, and the main (and as it turned out, only) evidence against him was the testimony of Amanda Knox that placed him the bedroom with Meredith when the screams and thuds were being produced.
By the time of the hearing of the 8th November the police had revised their estimate of the time of death and were now placing it at between 10pm and 12am on the night of 1st November. Whilst Lumbaba claimed that he had a rock-solid alibi in that a Senegalese friend named Usi and two parties of Belgian students could place him in his bar during these hours, it later transpired that an analysis of Kercher's stomach contents showed that she died between 8.30pm and 11.00 pm on 1st November.
This explained why Meredith Kercher's body was delayed at Rome airport for a few hours on the 11th November, when Lumbaba's lawyers petitioned a judge to stop the body being taken to Britain and allow a second post mortem in order to clear up the discrepancies over the time of her death. In the event the application failed and Meredith's body was put aboard an Alitalia flight due to land at Heathrow airport at 3.25pm today. However although the body was allowed to return to Britain, the Italians then had second thoughts about whether or not to have a second post-mortem, and it wasn't until the 28th November 2007 that they finally decided that the family could proceed with the funeral. Meredith was eventually laid to rest at a ceremony at Croydon Parish Church on the 14th December.
It was also on the 11th November that the police traced the previously unnamed Swiss university professor who Lumbaba had claimed was present in his bar earlier that evening. He turned out to be Romano Mero from Zurich who had been in Perugia to attend a conference. Mero flew back to Perugia and was happy to confirm that he had been at Le Chic between the hours of 8pm and 10pm. Unfortunately this additional alibi evidence wasn't sufficient to convince the police who still suspected Lumumba, apparently because his mobile phone could be placed in "the vicinity of the murder scene" at 8.38 pm on the night that Meredith died, and the fact that Lumumba "changed his mobile telephone the day immediately after the facts of 1 November". They were also doubts over his alibi because they couldn't trace any till receipts for the bar between the hours 6.00pm and 10.29pm. (Which probably meant nothing more than that Lummaba was fiddling his taxes.)
6. Foxy Knoxy changes her story
According to The Guardian Knox's solicitor Luciano Ghirga had warned his client against making unfounded accusations and appeared to be as confused as everyone else with the different accounts of events his client had provided, noting that "it is difficult to evaluate which one is true". No doubt he became even more confused when Knox's mother Edda Mellas visited her in prison on the 11th November, and returned to tell everyone that her daughter was now claiming that "in accusing Patrick I did something really stupid. I told the truth in my first interrogation. That night Raffaele and I did not move from his flat" and thereby reverted to her original version of events.
As it later became known on the 22nd November, on the very day that Knox had first accused Lumumba, she had later sat in her cell that evening and produced another rambling and confused handwritten statement apparently written at 11.00 pm in which she had withdrawn her accusations against Lumumba. According to this version, the events of that night appeared to her "like a dream", whilst Knox complained to be so confused that she had no idea who had really killed Miss Kercher, except of course that she was sure that it was not her. There were also reports that Knox was now claiming that Italian police officers had hit her on the head, and it was this assault, along with "exhaustion and stress" which accounted for her various conflicting statements.
As it happened few people appeared to be convinced by this change of heart, as there were one or two unfortunate pieces of evidence that appeared to point directly at Amanda Knox. As the Daily Mail announced, 'Caught on camera: Foxy Knoxy at murder flat on night Meredith was killed', the Carabinieri were in possession of CCTV footage from a car park close to the house showing her (or ar least someone who might have been her) entering the house at 8.43pm on the night of the killing. There was also the fact that the Carabinieri had carried out a search of the flat in the Via Garibaldi occupied by Raffaele Sollecito, where they found an eight inch black-handled kitchen knife. Although the knife had recently been cleaned it was claimed that the forensic services had identified Meredith's DNA on the blade and Knox's DNA on the handle. To cap it all there was the traditional "bloody fingerprint" found on a tap in the bathroom at the crime scene which belonged to Knox. It was also claimed by The Times on the 19th November that the Carabinieri had discovered till receipts at Sollecito's flat which showed that he had bought the two bottles of bleach allegedly used to clean up the crime scene.
To make matters worse, the Daily Telegraph of the 1st December then reported that Knox had been secretly bugged by investigators while talking to her parents in prison and that she had been recorded saying, "It’s stupid, I can’t say anything else, I was there and I cannot lie about it." Knox's lawyers claimed that what she meant was that she was at her boyfriend's house, not that anyone else appeared particularly convinced by that explanation.
As with the other suspects in the case, the Italian newspapers were able to speak to Sollecito, who was happy to discuss the details of his relationship with Ms Knox. He had however reached the conclusion that he never wanted to see her again, and that "If I am here it's her fault above all", whilst speculating that "Amanda may have stitched me up by taking the knife and giving it to the son of a bitch who killed Meredith." For her part Knox was quoted by the Italian press as claiming that "maybe Raffaele went to Meredith’s house, raped and killed her, and then put my fingerprints on the knife back at his house while I was asleep"
7. The Fourth Suspect
Amongst the evidence recovered by the Carabinieri from the crime scene was a bloody fingerprint on a cushion which did not belong to any of the three existing suspects, as well as faeces found in the lavatory of the house which did not match the DNA profile of any of the three suspects arrested so far.
The Carabinieri believed that they could identify this suspect from the footage from three car park security cameras which overlooked the house. Described as a "North African musician", he was believed to be the same man who was spotted acting "strangely" in the company of a young woman in a nearby launderette at 1.30pm on the following day when he bundled a large quantity of clothes and a pair of Nike trainers into a washing machine. Police did not name the man, although it appeared that he was "part of Knox's social circle" and had previous convictions for drug-dealing and was therefore believed to have provided the cannabis that she and Sollecito were said to have smoked in the afternoon before the murder.
The suspect was eventually named on the 19th November as one Rudy Herman Guede. Naturally he had a profile on Facebook, and indeed even sent a message through Facebook to the Daily Telegraph in which he acknowledged that he was aware of being the target of an international manhunt but wanted to clear his name, stating that "The reason I want to talk with police man, cause the news give at me a wrong profile." The Daily Mail also managed to track down a video Guede had posted on the YouTube website under the name of rudyhermann, during which he could be heard exclaiming in English; "Oh My God. I'm an extra-terra. I'm from alien earth who must be called human people. Oh Mamma. I'm a vampire, I'm Dracula. I'm gonna suck your blood."
It appeared however that the Carabinieri were well aware of all this Internet activity as whilst Guede was engaged in a three-hour conversation on Skype with one of his friends, known only as Alberto, they were monitoring the conversation and had tracked the IP address to Germany. However since Alberto had persuaded Guede to catch a train back to Italy, they did nothing more than send a team out to arrest Guede as soon as he reached the Italian border. Unfortunately the Italians failed to take account of the diligence of German ticket inspectors and at 7.16am on the morning of the 20th November Guede was stopped by a conductor on a suburban train between Wiesbaden and Mainz for travelling without a ticket. After explaining to the conductor that he was actually wanted by Italian police, he was subsequently detained by the German police at Mainz pending extradition to Italy.
8. Four becomes three and then more
According to The Times of the 16th November it was the "overwhelming view among the people of Perugia that Lumumba ... has been framed". Indeed it had already been suggested by Il Messaggero that Amanda Knox had only accused Diya Lumumba in order to cover up for the real killer, and it appeared that the Carabinieri soon came to the same conclusion, as once Guede was arrested they decided to release Diya Lumumba.
As the chief prosecutor Giuseppe Mignini admitted, apart from Knox's testimony, there was "no serious evidence" to link him to the crime, although he added that Lumumba "remains under investigation". Having spent thirteen nights in Capanne prison Lumumba was naturally pleased to be out. According to the Italian news agency Ansa he was "happy to be going home. I thank God." He was obviously displeased with Knox's behaviour, and even provided a motive for her attempt to frame him by explaining that he had in fact sacked Knox from her job at Le Chic because she spent her time trying to get laid by the customers rather than serving them drinks, and that Knox then became jealous when he offered the job to Meredith.
Unfortunately anyone who now believed that matters were now settled was soon to be disappointed as over the succeeding days details emerged of Rudy Herman Guede's version of events. Whilst Guede admitted that he had been with Meredith on the evening of the 1st November and that they had entered the house at about 8.30pm together, he denied being responsible for death. Some confusion arose initially, as there appeared to be some disagreement between Guede's respective German and Italian lawyers as to whether or not Guede had sex with Meredith that night, they later agreed that no sex took place although there was "great affection between them".
In any event Guede now claimed that Meredith had gone to her room and opened a drawer and noticed that some money was missing. According to Guede, Meredith believed that Knox had taken the money to buy drugs, an accusation that had some support when it later emerged that Meredith Kercher had withdrawn €250 to pay for her rent due on the 1st November but that her landlord never received the money, while the sum of €215 was found on Amanda Knox when she was searched. In any case, sometime afterwards Guede was forced to visit the bathroom (having eaten a "spicy kebab" that upset his stomach) from where he heard Meredith scream. He then emerged with his trousers at half mast and fought with a "brown haired" Italian and "even threw a chair" at him.
According to La Repubblica this man told Guede: "You are finished. A black man found is a black man condemned."
Guede rushed to Meredith's side, and tried to stop her bleeding with several towels, but although she tried to speak "it was difficult to understand her because of the wound", and all she could manage was to whisper the initials 'AF' as she lay dying. However Guede "did not call a doctor because of all the blood and I was totally confused" and then decided to flee the scene himself.
He was subsequently extradited to Italy on the 6th December 2007 and claimed that he could identify Meredith’s killer; "I saw him and I can recognise him. He was not alone, someone else was with him." As far as anyone could undertand, neither of these two individuals were supposedly Knox or Sollecito. Despite his stated eagerness to help identify the 'real killer', he later exercised his right to silence when he appeared in court on the 16th December, when despite requesting his release was told he would have to remain in prison.
Guede therefore joined Knox and Sollecito who both remained incacerated, despite the fact that they had earlier been back in court on the 30th November in an unsuccesful attempt to be released on bail.
At that time Knox appeared in court claiming "I am innocent, I was at Raffaele’s house the whole time" and now appeared to be blaming everything on Rudy Hermann Guede. Judge Massimo Riccarelli appeared to have been singularly unimpressed by Knox, whom he described as "crafty and cunning" and "unattached to reality" and paid more regard to the thirty-six page report produced by Giuseppe Mignini outlining the evidence against Knox and Sollecito.
Another Italian judge Maurizio Bufali released a report on the 19th December to confirm Guede's arrest, and concluded that Guede's account of events was "full of decisive falsehoods". The judge also set out what was presumed to be the general conclusion of investigators that "There was group participation in the heinous crime in which a passive role does not appear plausible for any of those present." It seemed that the forensic evidence indicated that there were a number of people present in the flat at the Via della Pergola when Meredith was killed, and that they all made a fairly rapid departure "after the tragic conclusion of the evening". One suspects that the truth has yet to emerge and that neither Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, nor Rudy Herman Guede have yet given entirely accurate accounts of their activities on the night of the 1st and 2nd November 2007.
Sourced from various reports in the British media including BBC News, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, The Independent and Independent on Sunday, The Sun, The Daily Mirror, and The Daily and Sunday Express .