Knox dreams of building new life in China

Tapes reveal love for US 'boyfriend' and how she spurned sex with cellmate
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The Independent Online

Days away from a verdict which is likely to condemn them to many more months if not years in jail, the two former lovers at the centre of the Meredith Kercher murder trial are dreaming of happier times in the future.

But not together. Raffaele Sollecito has enrolled in the University of Verona, his father reveals. And in conversations from her bugged jail cell leaked to Italian newspapers yesterday, Amanda Knox revealed that her feelings ended long ago for Sollecito, 24, the student from Bari in southern Italy with whom, along with a third person, Rudy Guede, she supposedly killed Ms Kercher.

"With Raffaele it's all over," she is reported to have said. "My love is DJ" – an old flame from Seattle. She set off to study in Italy and he went to China and the affair went the way of millions of other university flings. But now, it emerges, he is again very much in her mind – which may explain why she is studying Chinese in the Perugia cell she has now occupied for nearly a year.

This week the lawyers of the three defendants in the case have been putting to Judge Paolo Micheli the reasons why they are not guilty of stabbing Ms Kercher, 21, a Leeds University exchange student, to death in her bedsitting room in a cottage in the centre of Perugia on 2 November last year.

Yesterday, a shop mannequin was brought into court with a brassiere attached to it which was then removed and the bra tested for the DNA of the person who had removed it. The object of the demonstration by Sollecito's defence team was to prove that his DNA was on the catch of the brassiere not because he had torn the garment off, but because it had been contaminated during the investigation. The lawyers' contention was that in ripping off the bra his DNA would have been distributed all over it, whereas forensics only detected it on the clasp. Next Monday or Tuesday Judge Micheli is expected to decide the guilt or innocence of Rudy Guede, 21, from the Ivory Coast, who chose a fast-track trial. He will also decide whether the evidence that has been presented against Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito is strong enough to send them for a full trial.

The scenario of a simple rape-murder committed by Mr Guede, the only defendant who has admitted being in the house at the time of the murder, may seem more plausible, given Mr Guede's chaotic history as a drifter and small-time drug dealer, and given the former good character of Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito. This is the scenario favoured by Knox's vociferous supporters in the US.

But chief prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has tied his colours to the elaborate story of a Halloween sex orgy in which Ms Kercher was first an unwilling participant and subsequently the tragic victim. However far-fetched it may seem, he is sticking to it. For the judge to reject it out of hand would be seen as giving Italian justice a bad reputation – bruttafigura – in a case which has gained an enormous profile. So most people in Perugia believe there will be a full trial. Meanwhile, the bugs from Ms Knox's cell reveal "a pretty ordinary girl," as she describes herself, "who played soccer and did yoga, played the guitar and loved to sing". "Now I've turned vegetarian," she reveals. "Italian cheese is just great; parmesan." She makes friends in jail. "There are prostitutes in jail, Nigerians. People say they are dirty, but I like them." Her cellmate drives her up the wall – she is passionate about keeping the cell clean. The main documented reason for friction between Ms Knox, 21, and Ms Kercher was down to the former's sloppiness. At one point, she reveals, her cellmate suggested sex, but Ms Knox turned her down, "as I am not lesbian".

At the beginning of her year in jail she was bearing mementoes of the "friend" she is supposed to have killed. "What's that?" her father asked one day. "It's a fake tattoo Meredith gave me." She's dreaming of the future. "I could be an interpreter for a non-profit organisation," she theorises. Another time: "I would like to go to India. And I would like to walk the Pacific Coast Trail, with DJ, my American boy. Mama, tell him to tell me he loves me!"

Ms Knox is hard-headed enough to know that she is unlikely to be back at home next week; that a full murder trial is almost inevitable. And she dreads the snail's pace of Italian justice. "I hope it doesn't take 20 years," she says. "If it's one year, that's OK, better than 20."

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