Nothing Fits

Nick Richardson

  • Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox
    Harper, 463 pp, £28.99, April 2013, ISBN 978 0 06 221720 2
  • BuyMeredith: Our Daughter’s Murder and the Heartbreaking Quest for the Truth by John Kercher
    Hodder, 291 pp, £8.99, April 2013, ISBN 978 1 4447 4278 7

None of the stories we’ve been told about Meredith Kercher’s death really works. This becomes clear as soon as you start trawling the internet for details: every piece of evidence that came before the court in the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009, and in their successful appeal in 2011, has been scrutinised. Almost everything that has been written about the case has been disputed. It seems unlikely that Knox, a twenty-year-old American student at the University for Foreigners in Perugia at the time of the crime, would have killed her British flatmate and fellow student with the help of a boyfriend she’d known for just a week merely because they didn’t get on that well. But there’s still enough weirdness around her and Sollecito to cast doubt on their innocence. As for Rudy Guede, who is currently serving a sentence for Kercher’s murder, and who was definitely involved: he doesn’t fit the profile of the murderer either, at least not the profile of the kind of murderer he was made out to be. He was a school dropout, but had a wealthy Italian adoptive family; he had been arrested a couple of times, for petty theft and drug dealing, but had never been abnormally violent; he was also good friends with Kercher’s new boyfriend, Giacomo Silenzi, who lived in a basement flat in the same villa as Kercher and Knox. The murderers don’t fit, the date doesn’t fit: if we follow the horror movie logic of most of the press in the months between murder and trial Kercher should have been killed on Halloween, not 1 November. Her body was even found by the wrong kind of cop.

Elisabetta Biscarini’s home is about fifteen minutes’ walk from the villa where Knox and Kercher lived. At 11 a.m. on 2 November 2007, she was in the garden tending her roses when a shrub started ringing. She found a mobile phone and, because she was worried about a prank call she’d received the night before, called the Polizia Postale – a unit of the state police that deals with crimes involving communication devices. An hour later, a second ringing phone was found by Biscarini’s daughter. The postal police traced the owner of one of the sim cards to 7 via della Pergola, where they arrived at around 12.30 to find Knox, a pretty blonde girl, and Sollecito – tall, brown-haired, with glasses – loitering outside. Barbie Nadeau, the author of Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox (2010), says that they had a mop and bucket with them. In fact, Knox had taken a mop round to Sollecito’s apartment that morning to clear up a spill, or so they said, but this was before the Polizia Postale arrived at the villa. Trying to piece together what happened on the day following the murder, let alone the night of the crime, is tortuous.

Sollecito told the postal police that they suspected there’d been a break-in: there was a broken window in the bedroom belonging to Filomena Romanelli, one of Knox and Kercher’s two Italian flatmates and the registered owner of the sim (she’d given it to Kercher), and Knox had seen blood in the bathroom basin. The postal police told them about the phones, and Knox said that she’d just spoken to Romanelli to tell her about the break-in, but that she hadn’t been able to get through to Kercher. When asked if the couple had called 112, the emergency number, Sollecito said that they had (though whether they had or not is another black hole of online argument). Then Romanelli turned up in a car with some friends and marched into the house. Her room was covered in broken glass, her clothes were all over the floor, there was a rock lying on the floor, but nothing had been taken. The postal police asked if they were sure that nothing had been stolen, and Knox told them that they hadn’t checked Kercher’s room because the door was locked. Romanelli said that Kercher never locked her door and told the officers to break it down. One of Romanelli’s friends kicked it in. Romanelli screamed. Then the postal police cleared everyone out of the house and called the police police.

Monica Napoleoni, Perugia’s head of homicide, found Kercher’s body beside her bed, lying beneath a quilt. She had a deep gash across her throat, and was covered in smaller cuts and bruises. Except for a long-sleeved T-shirt that had been pulled up over her breasts, she was naked, with a bra that had been cut off her body at her feet. In the bathroom there was a bloodstain on the tap above the sink, and a bloody bare footprint on the bathmat. The Esperti Ricerca Tracce – the state police’s crime scene investigation unit – found bloody shoe prints and a handprint on a pillow that had been placed under Kercher’s hips. On the sheet on her bed they found the outline of a knife. One of the ERT’s scientists, Patrizia Stefanoni, examined Kercher’s vagina and found a long blonde hair. They swabbed the bathroom, sprayed the apartment with luminol, a chemical used to reveal traces of blood that has been wiped away, and found footprints the size of Knox’s and Sollecito’s feet in the corridor outside Kercher’s room, as well as a drop of blood in Romanelli’s room that was later shown, as was the blood on the tap, to contain both Knox’s and Kercher’s DNA. At some point, Sollecito, who had been waiting outside the house with Knox and the others, told Napoleoni that when Knox had arrived at the house that morning she had found a turd floating in the toilet, but that it had since been flushed – when Napoleoni checked, the turd was still there.

If we believe Knox’s memoir, Waiting to Be Heard, it was at this point that her mistreatment at the hands of the Perugia police began, leading her to make a false confession that she had been present at the scene of the crime, and to accuse Patrick Lumumba, her boss at Le Chic, the bar where she worked. If we listen to her detractors, it’s at this point that she began to give herself away. Knox was the first person to be interviewed at the police station on 2 November, though she says she had no idea she was already under suspicion: the postal police had told the detectives that the behaviour of Knox and Sollecito that morning had been strange. ‘While I was trying to … get my head around the shock of her death, the police were deciding to bug Raffaele’s and my cell phones.’ At the station she ‘scribbled down a few stream-of-consciousness lines about how unreal all of this was’. What she wrote was: ‘I’m starving. And I’d really like to say that I could kill for a pizza but it just doesn’t seem right.’ The lines were later produced in court as evidence against her. The following day the police took her to the villa to quiz her on site. They gave her protective boots and gloves to wear; ‘Ta-dah,’ she sang when she put them on. This came up in court too, as proof she wasn’t taking the murder seriously. Knox says she merely ‘wanted to be friendly and show that I was co-operating. I hoped to ease the tension.’ That evening, Sollecito took her to buy some new underwear, as she wasn’t allowed into the villa to get her clothes. She picked up a pair of red ‘cotton bikini briefs’. The press would later report that she’d bought a ‘saucy G-string’, and that Sollecito had said to her: ‘I’m going to take you home so we can have wild sex together.’

Knox told the investigators that she’d last seen Kercher at 2 p.m. on 1 November leaving the villa to visit friends. At around four o’clock, she said, she went over to Raffaele’s flat. They had dinner, watched a movie, smoked a joint, had sex, went to bed. At some point she received a text from Lumumba telling her that it would be a quiet night, so she didn’t need to go into work, but she couldn’t remember exactly when. The cops pressed her for precision. In Knox’s account, her interrogation was unspeakably gruelling: ‘The silver-haired cop and Ficarra’ – Rita Ficarra, the deputy head of Perugia’s Squadra Volante – ‘were in the tiny room almost non-stop. When they left, it wasn’t for long, and other cops came in to take their place. Sometimes a crowd of people closed in on me. The room was becoming uninhabitable to me. I really had to use the bathroom to take care of my period, but now I was too afraid to ask.’ At one point, she says, Ficarra slapped her hard on the back of the head and shouted at her: ‘Stop lying, stop lying.’ She hadn’t yet been arrested, let alone advised to consult a lawyer. Only after a couple of days of questioning was she given an interpreter.

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[1] Gallery, 288 pp., £7.50, April , 978 1 4516 9639 4.

[2] Broadway, 322 pp., £11.99, July 2012, 978 0 307 58859 3.