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.
They grilled her about Lumumba, asked her whether he knew Kercher, and whether he’d fancied her. Replying to Lumumba’s text, Knox had written: ‘Certo ci vediamo più tardi buona serata!’ By ‘see you later’ she’d meant she’d see him another day, but in Italy the phrase usually means later that night. When she told her interrogators she’d merely used the wrong phrase, her interpreter, she says, called her a liar. They suggested she’d left Sollecito’s flat and gone to meet Lumumba, and that she was ‘traumatised’ so couldn’t remember. ‘Nothing had substance. Nothing seemed real … Their version of reality was taking over. I felt confused, frantic, and there was no escape.’ One officer held her hands and pleaded: ‘You need to tell me who the murderer is … You know who killed Meredith.’ And at that moment, Knox says, she snapped and told them Lumumba had done it. They gave her a confession to sign. It said that she’d met up with Lumumba after leaving Sollecito’s flat at 8.30 p.m. and that they’d gone to the villa together; that Patrick had had sex with Meredith; and that she remembered ‘confusedly’ – confusedly because she’d earlier smoked a joint with Sollecito – that he killed her. Once she’d signed it, Knox says, the police officers ‘whooped and high-fived each other’. The public prosecutor later bullied her into making a second ‘spontaneous declaration’ in which she added that she had been in the kitchen when the murder took place, and that ‘at one point I heard Meredith screaming and I was scared and covered my ears.’ The following day she wrote a letter to the police saying that she’d been confused and couldn’t be sure the story she’d told them about Lumumba was true, but it was too late: Lumumba had already been arrested in a midnight raid on his house. At this point Knox was finally arrested herself. She’d arrived in Perugia from Seattle two months before. She was to spend the next 1427 days in prison.
While Knox was awaiting trial, Rudy Guede was arrested. Guede was a friend of the four boys who lived in the basement flat at the villa, including Giacomo Silenzi, who had started dating Kercher three weeks before she died. Guede played basketball with the boys and supplied them with drugs: Knox says she only met him twice, but he was often at the house. He had arrived in Italy as an illegal immigrant from the Ivory Coast, but had been adopted and naturalised when he was in his teens. He had dropped out of college and supported himself by gardening, bar work – and selling drugs. A few days before Kercher was killed he was caught in Milan robbing the office of a kindergarten headmistress. On Halloween, he told police, he’d been at a party where Kercher was dressed as a vampire, and asked her if she wanted to suck his blood: he said they’d hung out the entire night. His fingerprints and DNA were all over Kercher’s room; the shoe prints matched his shoes; the handprint matched his hand; the turd Knox had drawn attention to turned out to be his. His DNA was also found in Kercher’s vagina, though there was no semen, or any tearing to suggest he’d forced himself on her. After the crime, Guede had run away to Germany, but the police managed to trace him to Düsseldorf by eavesdropping on a Skype conversation between him and Silenzi, who told him that the police in Perugia were after him. When he was caught travelling on a train without a ticket a few days later he panicked and confessed to the transport police that he was wanted for murder in Italy. The Germans took him into custody and handed him over.
Guede gave three different accounts of what happened on the night of the murder. In none of them was he the sole interloper. He told the German cops that Meredith had invited him to the villa, and that they’d been fooling around when he had felt sick and gone to the bathroom. He heard a scream, and rushed out to find Meredith covered in blood with a brown-haired Italian man standing over her. The man fled instantly. Guede tried to stop the bloodflow, he said, and ran away when he realised there was nothing he could do. At his fast-track trial in the autumn of 2008 – his lawyer, a seedy headline-chaser known as ‘the Jackal’, said he’d decided to go for a fast-track with no jury or press present because he feared racial bias – Guede said that Kercher’s attacker had set about him too and cut his hand before running away, saying: ‘Trovato negro, trovato colpevole; andiamo.’ (‘Found black, found guilty; let’s go.’) He also claimed he’d left Kercher fully clothed, though one of his bloodied palm prints was on the pillow beneath Kercher’s hips. He was convicted of murder and sexual assault, but acquitted of theft, and sentenced to thirty years in prison. At his appeal, which took place in November 2009, just a couple of weeks before Knox and Sollecito were sentenced, he told the judge that the brown-haired Italian man was Sollecito, and that he’d heard Knox’s voice and seen her shadow through a window. His sentence was reduced to sixteen years.
The investigators never believed that Guede was Kercher’s sole killer. The state autopsy results suggested that there had been more than one assailant. She had dozens of cuts and bruises: finger bruises round her neck, a bruise on her chin and over her mouth, identical bruises on her inner elbows compatible with her being held back. It would have been extremely difficult to pin her down and inflict so much damage without being wounded too, especially as Kercher practised karate – but Guede only had the cuts on his hand. Plus there were the bloody footprints shown up by the luminol and the mixed-DNA bloodstains in Romanelli’s room and the bathroom. At Guede’s trial the judge declared that he believed Guede had acted with Knox and Sollecito. His confidence was shored up by two pieces of DNA evidence that the prosecution would rely on heavily in court. In November 2007 investigators found a knife at Sollecito’s apartment with Knox’s DNA on the handle and Kercher’s on the blade. In Waiting to Be Heard, Knox says that the officer who found the knife did so by ‘investigative intuition’, implying that he had no good reason for thinking it was the murder weapon – it just happened to be on top of the pile in a kitchen drawer. Patrizia Stefanoni, of the forensics unit, said that it had been ‘vigorously scrubbed’. And then there was Kercher’s bra clasp, which was found in her room by forensic police in December, a month and a half after the villa was first swept for evidence: it had traces of Sollecito’s DNA on it.
Between the preliminary hearing on 8 November, at which Knox and Sollecito were formally charged with murder, and the trial, which finally began on 16 January 2009, a propaganda war raged between those who sided with the prosecution and Knox’s supporters – the ‘innocentisti’ and the ‘colpevolisti’, as they were soon termed. The report prepared by Judge Matteini for the pretrial was leaked to the Italian press, which gleefully reported its hypothesis that Kercher’s murder had been the result of a sex game that had got out of hand. They also made much of the fact that Sollecito, like Knox, had been unable to give a consistent account of his actions on the night of the crime: he originally said that he and Knox had spent the evening at his apartment, but later told police that after spending time in town she had gone to Le Chic and he’d gone home, and that she had persuaded him to lie. In the Italian papers she became known as ‘viso d’angelo’, or ‘angel face’, while the British tabloids dubbed her ‘Foxy Knoxy’, her Myspace username, which was presumed to reflect her promiscuity. (Knox contends that she was given the nickname by her high school soccer team: she was good at dribbling. Waiting to Be Heard gives the impression that Knox spent most of her childhood countering the claims that would later be made about her by her accusers.) A few sample headlines: Meredith Kercher ‘SAID AMANDA WAS A DRUGGED-UP TART’; ‘FOXY KNOXY, THE GIRL WHO HAD TO COMPETE WITH HER OWN MOTHER FOR MEN’; ‘AMANDA KNOX: I’M ONLY A TARGET BECAUSE I’M SEXY’. A short story by Knox surfaced, in which one of the male characters tells his friend: ‘A thing you have to know about chicks is that they don’t know what they want … You have to show it to them.’ This was taken by the colpevolisti as evidence that she had fantasised about rape. In another story fragment that Knox posted on her Myspace page a couple of weeks before the murder the narrator has an obsessive crush on her female housemate. Sollecito, the son of a wealthy Pugliese doctor, also had his character picked over. He’d been into drugs when he was younger, and still smoked copious amounts of hash: in one post on a social networking site he bragged about spending ‘80 per cent of my waking hours high’. He was a porn addict, and owned a collection of swords and knives. He liked vampire comics. He had written on his blog that he craved ‘new sensations’. Perhaps the most damaging thing to turn up was a picture he once posted of himself wearing surgical bandages and posing with a meat cleaver and a jug of cleaning fluid.
Meanwhile, Knox’s mother was appearing regularly on American TV shows, proclaiming her daughter’s innocence over home video footage of Knox as a child. A Seattle-based group called Friends of Amanda was formed by Anne Bremner, a criminal lawyer who set herself up as a spokesperson for the Knox family. The Knoxes also hired a PR guru called David Marriott to prepare press releases for the American media. An American author called Douglas Preston, who had written a book about the serial killer known as the Monster of Florence – a case that had also been investigated by Justice Mignini, the chief prosecutor in Knox and Sollecito’s trial – discovered that Mignini had once wire-tapped a journalist. This served to back up the Knox camp’s claim that improper interrogation techniques had been used (even though Mignini had hardly been present at the interrogation). It also came out that when Mignini was investigating the Monster of Florence case he had called in a ‘witch’ to advise him on satanism. The internet was flooded with frighteningly obsessive analysis of the murder and the suspects.
Knox and Sollecito were tried simultaneously: Sollecito for murder, Knox for murder and defamation – Lumumba’s family had filed a suit against her. Lumumba’s lawyer was dramatic in his condemnation: she was a ruthless liar who by framing Lumumba had destroyed his business – a ‘luciferina’. The over-the-top tone, part awe, part revulsion, continued as the prosecution painted her as a sex-mad sociopath. Monica Napoleoni told the court that while the rest of Kercher’s friends were in tears at the police station, she and Sollecito had kissed and petted each other. The court was also told how many people Knox had slept with since leaving America. Kercher’s British friends testified that she’d been scandalised by Knox’s bringing different men back to the house. The first words that Knox spoke in public, after 15 months of silence, were in defence of the vibrator that she had kept in her washbag, and that had apparently offended Kercher. She interjected: ‘It was a gift, a joke.’
The prosecution called a series of dodgy witnesses to place Knox and Sollecito at the scene of the crime. A shopkeeper said that he’d seen Knox at quarter to eight on the morning after the murder in the cleaning products section of his shop, but he couldn’t remember if she’d bought anything or not, and had left it a year before telling the police what he thought he’d seen. A woman who lived in an apartment building across the street from the villa testified that she had heard a scream between 11 and 11.30 p.m. on the night of the murder, followed by footsteps from the villa’s driveway. The coroner wasn’t allowed to take Kercher’s body temperature until the police had finished examining the crime scene, so the woman’s testimony was used to establish the time of death, though Knox’s lawyers argued that the position of food in Kercher’s digestive tract made an earlier time of death, 9 p.m. or so, more likely. Mignini called a homeless man called Antonio Curatolo, who said that at some time before midnight he had seen Knox and Sollecito at the basketball court where Guede was known to hang out. He also called an Albanian taxi driver called Hekuran Kokomani, who had testified at the pretrial that he had seen Knox, Sollecito and Guede together on Halloween: apparently he’d been driving down a main road close to the villa when he saw what appeared to be a black bag in the middle of the road. He got out of the car to move it, only to find that the bag was Knox and Sollecito huddled together. He said that he had punched Sollecito and that Knox had threatened him with a large knife. At the trial, he was asked how he could be sure it was Knox he’d seen. He replied that he recognised her from the gap between her teeth; Knox has no such gap.
The forensic evidence was examined. The defence argued that the spots of Kercher’s blood mixed with Knox’s DNA didn’t indicate that Knox was at the scene of the crime, merely that Knox and Kercher shared a house – it was completely understandable for Knox’s DNA to be present in the same place as Kercher’s blood. The blood that was shown up by the luminol, the defence also claimed, might not have been blood at all. Luminol spray glows blue when exposed to haemoglobin, but blood isn’t the only thing that sets off the reaction: bleach, human waste and rust can do it too. Asked why she was sure the stains were blood, Stefanoni replied that the luminol glowed more brightly than it would have if they’d been anything else – but Knox’s lawyers argued that luminol doesn’t glow more brightly on blood. The defence had been given access to the notes Stefanoni’s lab had made when testing the knife they’d found in Sollecito’s apartment. Kercher’s DNA was discovered only after the sensitivity of the lab equipment had been amped up to the very limit of what’s deemed acceptable by international law, and the knife had only been tested once – DNA evidence is usually tested for at least twice if it’s to be admissible in court. The shape of the knife was also shown to be incompatible with the knife-shaped bloodstain on Kercher’s bed, and with all but one – the deep gash on her neck – of her wounds. As for the bra clasp, it had been lying on the floor of Kercher’s room for six weeks before the forensics team realised they’d left it behind. Photos of the crime scene revealed that by the time they picked it up it had moved a metre or so from its original position. When asked how this had happened, Stefanoni replied: ‘E traslato’ – ‘It moved’ – a phrase more often used of religious miracles. The blonde hair that was found on Kercher’s body turned out to be a fabric fibre.
In other words, the forensic evidence, as presented in the trial, barely existed; and it didn’t take much – a new expert report – to prove its inadequacy when Knox and Sollecito’s appeal began in November 2010. The trial had taken a year. The appeal took six months; the convictions were quashed and Knox and Sollecito set free. So why, if the crucial evidence was so obviously flawed, were Knox and Sollecito found guilty in the first place? Though Knox has nothing but praise for them, some of the blame lies with her lawyers. Her team was led by a lawyer who’d been brought in from Rome because he spoke fluent English, even though he’d never tried a criminal case. His cross-examinations were clumsy, and his version of the facts clashed with the version presented by Sollecito’s more experienced lawyers: their forensics expert testified that Meredith had been grabbed from behind and stabbed in the neck; Knox’s expert testified that she’d been stabbed from the front. But a significant portion of the blame for turning the jury against her must also lie with Knox herself, who seemed to make a special effort to be charmless. She wore a Beatles ‘All You Need Is Love’ T-shirt to court, which was seen as proof that she wasn’t taking the trial seriously. She interrupted Mignini; she was sarcastic. At one point, when a police witness told her ‘You did do it,’ she replied, ‘Yes, I did then, but I don’t remember.’ She got fed up with her translator so switched languages from English to heavily accented Italian. She kept grinning at Sollecito, and once passed him chocolates. When she was asked if she had suffered as a result of the death of her friend, she replied: ‘I was very shocked … But in the end, I knew her for a month and, first of all, I’m trying to get on with my life.’
She didn’t perform well. But she was young and very angry, and Waiting to Be Heard makes it clear she had good reason. Whether she committed the crime or not, she wasn’t treated correctly by the police. The investigators even tried to trick her into giving herself away by telling her that she had been diagnosed as HIV positive. But her account skimps on some important details, and leaves others out entirely. For these, you can consult John Kercher’s book, Meredith, a memoir of his daughter and a passionate indictment of Knox and Sollecito. Kercher tells us that when Sollecito was first questioned about the knife with Meredith’s DNA on it, he said that it must have been left there after Meredith had come over to his apartment – though she had never been there. Kercher also goes into more detail than Knox about why the police thought the break-in had been staged. For one thing, the window was so high that it would have been difficult to climb up to it and then through it, especially without cutting oneself or snagging clothes on the jagged edges – and why would a thief choose a top-floor window anyway? Clothes had been strewn around Romanelli’s bedroom, so that it looked as though someone had frantically rifled through her things, but most of the broken glass from the window was on top of the clothes, suggesting that it was broken after the clothes had been scattered. There were also signs that the glass had been broken from the inside. Plus Romanelli’s laptop and camera hadn’t been taken: why would an intruder go through her things and not take the valuables? If Meredith’s killer didn’t come through the window, then given that there were no signs of forced entry anywhere else in the house, the likelihood is that he or she came in by the front door. For Kercher, who believes his daughter didn’t know Guede well enough to let him in, this supports the case against Knox, who had a key, and was the only housemate in Perugia that night – the Italians were all visiting their families.
Kercher goes into detail about the discrepancies between Knox and Sollecito’s alibis. Sollecito told the police that she had left him in town, saying she was going to meet friends at Le Chic at 9 p.m., and he had gone home alone and surfed the internet until she came back at one. (In Honour Bound, Sollecito’s new book, he says he was so stoned that he can’t be sure Knox didn’t leave him alone for some time that night.) Computer experts who testified at the trial said that Sollecito’s laptop had not been used between 9.30 p.m. and 5.30 a.m. on the morning after the murder. Knox and Sollecito said that they had slept in on the morning of 2 November, but phone records showed that they had both switched their mobiles on at six, having turned them off for the night.
Kercher also has more time for the prosecution’s ‘super-witnesses’, the taxi driver and the homeless man. Though he accepts that parts of Kokomani’s testimony don’t tie up, he thinks it odd that the taxi driver would have fabricated the entire story for no apparent reason other than ‘to grab the limelight’. Kokomani was certainly in the vicinity of the villa on the night of the murder: he mentioned seeing a tow truck that was on via della Pergola that night, picking up a tourist’s broken-down car. Kercher notes Kokomani’s line, unmentioned by Knox, that he had been offered 100,000 euros – it’s not clear by whom – not to speak to the police. Curatolo, who is dismissed in Knox’s account solely because he’s a tramp, is described by Kercher as ‘articulate’, ‘convinced of what he had seen’, and sure of the time he had spotted Knox, Sollecito and Guede together because there is a large digital clock in the piazza by the basketball court. A couple of witnesses described by Kercher don’t feature in Knox’s account at all: Fabrizio Giofreddi testified that he had seen Knox, Sollecito and Guede together on via della Pergola at 5 p.m. on 30 October; Antonella Monacchia, a neighbour, testified that she had heard the sounds of arguing coming from the direction of the villa at around 11.30 on the night of crime. Finally, in Kercher’s account the friction between Knox and Meredith in the weeks leading up to the murder was far more intense than Knox would have us believe. Knox suggests that they were friends who just didn’t have all that much in common; Kercher claims his daughter complained about Knox constantly – about her poor hygiene, her promiscuity and her general weirdness.
This may not add up to a solid case for the prosecution, but it adds up to something. Yet journalists have been as uninhibited in proclaiming Knox’s innocence as they were in condemning her. The American novelist Nathaniel Rich wrote a long piece for Rolling Stone in June 2011 entitled: ‘The Never-Ending Nightmare of Amanda Knox’. It opened with a gory re-enactment of Kercher’s murder: ‘On the third try, the killer found a soft spot …’ The killer; one killer. Kercher is glibly characterised in a couple of sentences as a bit of an airhead ‘who didn’t take herself too seriously’, and whose main reason for going to Perugia was its ‘reputation as the city of chocolate’. (John Kercher tells us she went because she was a linguist who hoped to get a job with the European Parliament.) Rich followed his piece with a review of Waiting to Be Heard in the New York Review in which not only are the Italian police bungling idiots, the Italian journalists immoral dogs, the Italian legal professionals superstitious fools, but Perugia itself is portrayed as a vortex of evil and chicanery:
The medieval city descends a steep hill in crooked, claustrophobic side streets that cross each other at absurd angles. The narrowness of the streets is enhanced by the tendency of the city’s ancient buildings to lean forward, as if about to fall on their faces. The sun doesn’t shine on most streets for most of each day. The mood is relentlessly clandestine, conspiratorial, paranoid.
Rich’s fellow travellers include the Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone, who, after interviewing her mother in 2009 became Knox’s penpal, writing to her regularly in prison. Knox, he tells us, ‘liked Guardian Weekend, particularly its fashion and recipes’.
We became innocentisti or colpevolisti before we had any right to become either – we still don’t have that right. Our passionate desire for Knox and Sollecito to be innocent or guilty is stoked by deep-seated resentments and prejudices. From the outset the innocentisti accused the colpevolisti of anti-Americanism. Nina Burleigh, an American journalist who wrote a book about the case called The Fatal Gift of Beauty,said of her time in Perugia: ‘The most surprising thing for me was the level of anti-Americanism this case brought out in the open. The Knox family was attacked on issues of class, because of what they wore and how they behaved, and were accused of American arrogance.’ Following the trial, US Senator Maria Cantwell wrote to Hillary Clinton to alert her to the anti-Americanism in the courtroom – though Sollecito, an Italian, was being tried too.
Was there ‘anti-American sentiment’ among the colpevolisti? The resentment, even, of a former imperial power towards the current hegemon? Almost certainly. But the anti-Italian sentiment flowing in the other direction was just as concentrated. The managers of Knox’s downfall came in for savage caricature, though they were respected professionals with long careers behind them: Mignini was a senile fuddy-duddy, Napoleoni a vindictive bully; Stefanoni incompetent, though she was an internationally reputed forensics expert who had been entrusted with the identification of bodies after the 2004 tsunami. Cantwell stated that she had ‘serious questions about the Italian justice system’; the state for which she is senator, Washington, currently has eight people on death row. In The Fatal Gift of Beauty, Burleigh, one of the most vocal Italy-haters, wrote that at the trial Knox’s family radiated ‘that quality that so differentiates the American from the European – enthusiasm’. She also said that the Italian lawyers ‘seem to have no concept of “robbery gone wrong”. I can’t tell you how many Italian “dottores” of law and criminology said to me that thieves simply do not kill. Obviously, they’ve missed the news about all the poor bodega owners and 7-Eleven clerks in early graves over here.’ At one point Burleigh even suggested the Italian press hadn’t covered the story properly because they were being manipulated by the mafia.
Was there imperial condescension to be found among the innocentisti? Without doubt. Throughout Waiting to Be Heard Knox insists that the reason she fell under suspicion was that she comes from a different culture. The cops suspected her almost from the moment they met her, she says, not because she was ‘behaving strangely’, but because she didn’t observe the Italian conventions on mourning. Italians mourn dramatically – as the Italian housemates did, weeping loudly and profusely – but Americans go into shock: their way of mourning, at least at first, is to feel that they don’t know how to mourn. Similarly, the friction between her and Kercher is explained in terms of cultural difference: Kercher’s English reserve versus her American exuberance. The key figures in this story came to represent not only themselves, but the countries they came from. This is also true of Guede, whose origins fuelled accusations of racism on all sides.
The explanations we’ve got have too many holes. Which is the reason the Italian supreme court ordered the appeal hearing that is now taking place in Florence. Not that it’s likely to change anything. There is no significant new evidence. The case for the second appeal was put together by five Italian judges, none of them part of the original prosecuting team, and rests on 16 criticisms of procedure levelled at the appeal court. The Kercher family have also submitted a list of their own disagreements with the court, which closely resemble the judges’. Several concern evidence that they believe ought to have been admitted but wasn’t, such as the confession Knox signed following her first bout of interrogation, and Curatolo’s testimony, which was rejected by the appeal court on the grounds that he had been a heroin user. The story that Guede told at his trial was also dismissed – illegitimately, the five judges say – though it contradicts the defence’s own. But again, in the report, the emphasis is on the DNA evidence. They criticise the appeal court for failing to grant the prosecution’s request to retest the knife, despite considerable advances in DNA testing technology between the first tests and the appeal, and argue that the onus was on the defence to demonstrate how the contamination of the bra clasp could have taken place, instead of allowing that in the period between the crime and the clasp’s retrieval ‘anything could have happened.’ They also claim that, having argued that the footprints shown up by the luminol weren’t blood, the defence should have been expected to prove that Knox and Sollecito, at some other time, had walked down the corridor barefoot with a different luminol-sensitive chemical on their feet. The judges worry that in the immediate aftermath of the murder Knox and Sollecito both seemed to know things that they shouldn’t have and about which they weren’t interrogated: Sollecito told the police that nothing had been taken from Romanelli’s room, before Romanelli had been there to check, and Knox, as several witnesses testified at the trial, claimed to have found the body herself and said things about its position – that it had been underneath a quilt, for example – even though she’d been in her room with Sollecito when the door to Kercher’s room was broken down. The appeal court held that her apparent knowledge of the corpse’s position wasn’t admissible as evidence because she was distressed when she made the comments. Finally, the judges remind us that it would have been very difficult for Guede to execute such a challenging break-in while Kercher was awake, without her ringing the police, and that it was more than strange for him to have suddenly gone into a homicidal frenzy and left the flat without stealing anything.
Nothing fits. That’s why the Italian supreme court has agreed to hear the appeal, not because the Italians hate Americans, or because they’re trying to save face – it’s far too late for that. It’s also probably too late for new DNA testing: the appeal judge has agreed to a new test on the knife, but it’s unlikely to find anything significant after so long, and surely the villa on via della Pergola has swallowed most of its secrets by now. Meanwhile, questions remain: why was the bra cut off the body? Were Knox and Sollecito on hard drugs? What were the couple up to at six in the morning the day after the murder? What was the mop for? (Sollecito mentioned the spill in a phone call to his dad at 8.40 on the night of the murder – it must have dried out by the morning.) What kind of man covers the body of the woman he’s just murdered with a sheet, then goes and takes a shit and forgets to use the flush? Knox won’t be attending the trial, though she has volunteered to take a lie detector test, but Sollecito, who has been living in the Dominican Republic, will. It is predicted to last for months. The war of innocentisti v. colpevolisti has been given a second wind, though this time the innocentisti hold the cards. Lumumba has recently said in the papers that he still thinks Knox is guilty, but for the most part, the media are now backing her. She gave an interview to Diane Sawyer in which she performed extremely well: she was collected, demure and convincing, as she hadn’t been at trial.Her book has outsold Kercher’s many times over; the judge who cleared Knox and Sollecito has declared that the judges who requested the hearing have ‘violated the law’. In September, Knox felt confident enough in the world’s faith in her innocence to tell the Italian magazine Oggi that she wanted to accompany Kercher’s parents on a visit to her grave.
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