Evidence mounts against suspects in Perugia killing

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The Independent Online

The body of Meredith Kercher was flown home yesterday as Italian police moved closer to charging the three main suspects in her alleged attempted rape and murder 10 days ago.

At 3.30pm yesterday, an Alitalia plane carrying Ms Kercher's body landed at Heathrow. Her family, from Coulsdon, Surrey, will now make the funeral arrangements.

Investigators said yesterday that they had discovered a signal "trace" of a mobile phone belonging to Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, the Congolese bar owner who denies involvement in Ms Kercher's death, "in the vicinity of the murder scene". The new evidence undermines Mr Lumumba's alibi over the death of the British student.

Investigators in Perugia are also conducting scientific examinations of a "sweat-soaked T-shirt" belonging to the 44-year-old and of "medium length" hair mixed with his own hair.

Mr Lumumba, who was originally reported to be 37, is one of three suspects who are being held in relation to Ms Kercher's death. The others are Amanda Knox, 20, an American student who lived with Ms Kercher and worked part time in Mr Lumumba's Le Chic bar, and Raffaele Sollecito, 24, Ms Knox's Italian boyfriend.

Italian investigators also announced that they were hunting for an unnamed fourth suspect in relation to the killing. The man, described only as a north African musician, was identified after the study of CCTV footage from a car park close to the cottage where the 21-year-old Briton was killed.

Ms Kercher's body was found on 2 November, half-naked, soaked in blood, and partly covered by a duvet in her rented cottage. She had been killed by a knife wound to her throat.

It is now thought possible that she was murdered much earlier than the original estimate of between midnight and 2am. Analysis of food in Ms Kercher's stomach suggests she died between 8.30pm and 11pm.

A 19-page report by the investigating judge, Claudia Matteini, alleges that Ms Kercher was killed after refusing to take part in an "extreme" sexual game instigated by Ms Knox.

It is suggested that she and Mr Sollecito were high on drugs. When Ms Kercher refused to take part in the sex game, Mr Sollecito, who has confessed to being interested in knives and was pictured on his blog brandishing a meat cleaver, allegedly pulled out a 3-inch flick knife and put it to her throat.

The cut missed the main carotid artery and caused her to bleed to death.

Remanding all three suspects in jail, Judge Matteini suggested that there were "serious indications of guilt".

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