Murder of Meredith Kercher

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Perugia, where the murder of Meredith Kercher happened in November 2007

The murder of Meredith Kercher happened on the night of 1 November 2007. Meredith Kercher was born in London on 28 December 1985 and was 21 years old at the time of her death. She was a student at Leeds University in England but moved to Italy in August 2007. Meredith went to a university in Perugia, Italy as part of her course of study.[1] She lived in a house, upstairs, with three other female students. Police investigators concluded that Kercher had been killed with a knife, and locked in her bedroom.

Murder[change | edit source]

An American student called Amanda Knox who lived in the house with Kercher, came home the next day. At 12:07 pm, she called Kercher's local Italian mobile phone, but it rang without being answered for 16 seconds.[2] Then she called another roommate, Filomena R., and said that there were drops of blood in the house and that Kercher did not answer her phone. Knox then tried calling Kercher again two times but there was still no answer on either her local Italian phone or her UK phone. Immediately, Filomena called back to Knox to say she was coming home, and Knox then announced that Filomena's window had been broken, with glass all over her clothes and the computer on the floor.

After Filomena had called Knox again, two police officers came to the house because two mobile phones had been found in gardens about one kilometer (0.6 mile) from the house.[3] When Knox had called Kercher (at 12:07 pm), her phone was found ringing in some garden bushes. It was found by a neighbour who then called the communications police.

Entering the house, the police noted all the drops of blood that Knox showed them, and they confirmed that Kercher's bedroom door was locked. A friend of Filomena's broke the door to open it. The police looked in the bedroom and found Kercher's body under a duvet (quilt). She was naked except for her T-shirts pulled up to her shoulders. There was a lot of blood on her body and around the room. Someone had stabbed her neck with a knife. Her clothes were laying scattered towards the door. Two credit cards, 300 euros (about US$420), and her house keys were missing.[4]

Arrests[change | edit source]

The next day, the police arrested three people. They arrested Knox, her 2-week boyfriend (an Italian student) Raffaele Sollecito. They also arrested Knox's boss at a local pub where she worked but later released him. Sollecito was Knox's new boyfriend and she had met him just eight days before the murder. Weeks later, police arrested another person called Rudy Guede. Originally from the Ivory Coast, Guede later acquired dual citizenship in Italy. After the murder, he went by train to Germany. Police in Germany caught him and took him back to Italy.

Trials[change | edit source]

Guede was put on trial in Italy in October 2008. He was found guilty and sent to prison for 30 years.[5]

Knox and Sollecito were also put on trial. Sollecito was sent to prison for 25 years, and Knox for 26 years. They both appealed their sentences.[5]

The prosecutors said that Guede, Knox and Sollecito killed Kercher together. The lawyers of Knox and Sollecito said that Guede killed her alone, and undressed and moved the body hours later. In June-November 2009, their lawyers presented evidence and witnesses to support a "lone-wolf" theory, that Guede killed Kercher and later undressed and moved her body away from the window of her bedroom in the house where she lived with Knox.

Guede had claimed that he had been invited to her house, as a date planned with Kercher on Halloween.[6] While in her house, he claimed he became sick, and while in the bathroom, he heard a loud scream. In his story, Guede claimed that he saw a brown-haired Italian man holding a knife, over Kercher on the floor of her room.[6] He then claimed that the man fought him, and ran from the house, saying in perfect Italian, "Trovato negro, trovato colpevole" ("found black, found guilty"). Guede said that he tried to help Kercher, as she was bleeding quickly, but he became scared and ran from the house, without calling the police or anyone for help. Guede had told officials that Kercher was fully dressed when she was stabbed, and he left her with the bed quilt and pillow on her bed.[6] However, witnesses and CSI experts, from the Forensic Police in Rome, presented evidence that contradicted Guede's story about that night:

  • Guede claimed Kercher met with him on Halloween, but her friends testified that they had gone partying with her, and none of them saw her talking to Guede.[6]
  • Guede claimed Kercher was fully dressed when stabbed, but blood spots on her skin indicated that her T-shirt was pulled above her bra when she was stabbed.[6]
  • Guede claimed the white pillow remained on the bed, but it was found under the body, marked with his left shoe print (from Nike Outbreak 2 tennis shoes) and his palm-print in blood.[6]
  • Guede claimed that he did not return to undress and move the body, but the bra and severed bra strap had DNA matching Guede's DNA genetic profile,[6] also on her body and handbag.
  • Guede claimed he did not break the upstairs window in the third bedroom, but just 5 days earlier, he had been caught afterhours in a Milan school, with a laptop computer and mobile phone stolen from a law office burgled with a rock breaking through an upstairs window.[6]
  • Guede claimed he had not stabbed Kercher, but when caught inside the Milan school on 27 October 2007, the local police searched his backpack and found a kitchen knife stolen from the school kitchen.[6]

At Guede's trial, the judge and jury did not believe Guede's claims, and they convicted him of the murder.[6] He had been caught because his palm-print on the pillow matched his police file, including the Milan school incident, when Milan police had released him just 5 days before the murder. Guede was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but that was reduced to 16 years after his first appeal trial.

In a separate trial, both Knox and Sollecito were tried for the murder, but the evidence was much less than with Guede. No witnesses testified that they had seen or heard Knox or Sollecito enter or leave the house that night. Also, the small amounts of DNA connecting them to the murder were in such low amounts that it could be considered contamination, and such small amounts of DNA are inadmissible during trials in British or U.S. criminal courts. Although numerous shoe prints had been found matching Guede's Nike shoe, there were no shoe prints matching any of the shoes which police had taken from the houses of Knox and Sollecito. The main issues about them were that they said things that seemed suspicious:[7]

  • Knox had written a statement, during police interrogation, in which she vaguely remembered going to the house with her boss from work, but thought it was a false memory, suggested under police pressure.
  • Knox testified that the police, on the 4th day of questions, had kept her awake all night, without food, then shouted, hit her, and threatened to put her in prison for 30 years unless she named someone.[8] However, the police testified they did not bully her, and instead that Knox started crying and confessed to being in the house.
  • On the day the body was discovered, when the postal police arrived, Knox and Sollecito said they had called police, but phone records indicate the call was made a few minutes after, not before, they arrived.[6][7]
  • Sollecito, when calling the police, said that there had been a burglary break-in with nothing taken, even though the other housemates had not returned to count their belongings.[6]
  • They both claimed to have stayed the night at his 2-story house, but they could not confirm what the other was doing downstairs, or if either had left.
  • Sollecito told police his father had called him at home around 11 p.m. However, phone records later showed that he received no such call.[9]

Because no other witnesses could confirm the couple stayed in his house, during the murder at Knox's house, they were both sent to trial. The evidence against them was very limited:[7]

  • One man, Hekuran K., claimed he saw all three on a rainy street near the house that night, and had argued with them, but the rain had been on Halloween, instead, the night before.[7] When asked how he knew what time they argued, he said he checked his car clock, but noted that it was broken. When asked if he had talked to reporters, he said no then yes.
  • Another witness, a homeless man, Antonio C. said that he saw Knox and Sollecito talking in a town square near the house that night at 11-11:30 pm, timed from a nearby clock, but in his original statement, he had said other people nearby were wearing masks, as on Halloween, the night before.
  • Computer records show that Sollecito's computer was being used at 9:10 pm[9] and he lived at least 10 minutes from the town square.
  • A fingerprint expert claimed that one shoe print on the bed pillow was in Knox's size, but the pattern did not match any of her 22 shoes, and when the pillow was folded, that shoe print exactly matched Guede's Nike shoes.
  • A partial blood footprint on the nearby bath mat was claimed to match Sollecito's foot, but experts testified that it was so vague that it also matched Guede's foot.
  • No hairs, clothing fibers, skin or fingerprints of Knox or Sollecito were found in Kercher's room.
  • No blood-stained clothes, shoes, or knives were found in either of their houses, or in Sollecito's car.
  • A knife taken from Sollecito's kitchen, with Knox's DNA on the handle, was claimed to match a trace amount of Kercher's DNA near the tip,[10] but the knife was too large to have made two of the three stab wounds, and tested negative for any blood residue anywhere.

When Knox was convicted in the first trial, the verdict was questioned by some as "anti-Americanism", but Sollecito was also convicted at the same time.

Appeals[change | edit source]

Guede appealed against his sentence, and it was changed from 30 to 16 years in prison. He still says that he did not kill Kercher. His second appeal trial ended in December 2010 with upholding the verdict of guilty.

Knox and Sollecito filed the proper legal documents to appeal their convictions, and they were still considered "presumed innocent" as if the previous trial verdicts were suspended. Their appeal trial began in November 2010, with a new judge who ruled to re-examine DNA evidence against them. The judge also granted a re-questioning of witness Antonio C. about which days he saw what.

On 3 October 2011, murder convictions against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were overturned and they were both set free that same night.[11][12]

Italy's supreme court ordered a re-trial. The case was heard in Florence, and ended on 30 January 2014. Both Knox and Sollecito were found guilty of murder. They were sentenced to 28 (Knox) and 26 (Sollecito) years in prison.[13]

References[change | edit source]

  1. "Profile: Meredith Kercher". BBC News. 2009-12-04. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7693702.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  2. Judge Massei Report of Knox/Sollectio Trial, list of phone calls.
  3. "Deadly exchange", By Dennis Murphy, Correspondent, NBC News, Dateline NBC / Crime reports, MSNBC.com, 21 December 2007, link: MSNBC-40.
  4. "Defense Witness Says Amanda Knox Did Not Break Window", Ann Wise, Rome, ABC News, International, 3 July 2009, 3 pages, link: ABC-62.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Harry Miller (22 November 2009). "Coulsdon student Meredith Kercher's convicted killer begins murder appeal". http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/4752594.Meredith_Kercher_s_convicted_killer_begins_murder_appeal/. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 Micheli Judgment (Motivation) 2009-01-26, recap for October 2008 trial of Rudy Guede, (Google Translation, Italian to English): Translate.google, Italian webpage: Pen.it.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Was there a plot to murder Meredith?", John Hooper, The Guardian, Thursday 5 February 2009, link: Guard-05.
  8. "Italian police hit me during questioning, says Amanda Knox on witness stand", Richard Owen in Rome, 13 June 2009, link: TOnline-80.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Amanda Knox Prosecutor Highlights Suspicious Cell Phone Activity", by Ann Wise, Rome, Italy, 20 March 2009, link: ABC-95.
  10. "BBC News - Why did Amanda Knox murder Meredith Kercher?", Duncan Kennedy, BBC News, Perugia, 4 December 2009, link: BBC-9.
  11. "Live blog: Amanda Knox to go free after jury overturns murder conviction – This Just In - CNN.com Blogs". News.blogs.cnn.com. http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/03/amanda-knox-murder-appeal/. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  12. Rizzo, Alessandra. "News from The Associated Press". Hosted.ap.org. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_ITALY_KNOX?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  13. Corriere Fiorentino del 31 Gennaio 2014 - http://corrierefiorentino.corriere.it/firenze/notizie/cronaca/2014/30-gennaio-2014/meredith-giorno-sentenza-2223994724053.shtml