Meredith suspect arrested after Facebook trace

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The Independent Online

A petty thief wanted by Italian police investigating the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher was arrested in Germany yesterday. A bar owner held since the discovery of her body was released from prison for lack of evidence.

Rudy Guede, a 20-year-old student with joint Italian and Ivory Coast nationality, was stopped by German police after he tried to board a train between Mainz, in the south of the country, and Frankfurt without a ticket. He was caught after police tracked a computer he was using to communicate via his entry on the Facebook website.

His arrest came as a judge ordered the release of Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, a Congolese bar owner, who was one of three suspects held in prison for three weeks in connection with the murder of Ms Kercher, 21, who had her throat cut after she apparently refused to take part in an extreme sex game.

Mr Lumumba, 37, was implicated by witness statements from another suspect, the American student Amanda Knox, who alleged that he was present in the house she shared with Ms Kercher in the Umbrian city of Perugia. But no forensic evidence has been found linking Mr Lumumba to the crime and witnesses have given testimony backing his claim that he was in his bar during the night of the murder on 2 November.

The bar owner, who has a child, said "thank God" as he emerged from the prison in Perugia and told reporters that he was happy to be going home.

Earlier his lawyer, Giuseppe Sereni, said: "Lumumba is serene. He knows he will come out of this, there is no trace, nothing that leads to him."

Detectives named Mr Guede as a suspect after his bloody fingerprint was allegedly found on a cushion in the bedroom of Ms Kercher, who was from Coulsdon in south London. A forensic trace was also found in the bathroom of the cottage.

Mr Guede, who is believed to have come to Italy at the age of five with his parents and has convictions for theft, was regularly seen at a basketball court adjacent to the house. He announced to friends two weeks ago that he was leaving Perugia for Milan.

Police traced him to Milan after he briefly switched on his mobile phone in the city. But the trail again went cold until Mr Guede logged on to his page on the Facebook social networking website, where he keeps a picture of himself with the fashion designer Giorgio Armani, and exchanged messages with correspondents, including journalists from the London Evening Standard and The Daily Telegraph.

In one message, Mr Guede, who also has a conviction for possession of a small amount of drugs, said he was aware he was being treated as a suspect and said he wanted to give himself up to clear his name. The newspapers passed on the information to Italian police but officers were also monitoring the account and traced the computer.

It is understood that none of the other three suspects, who all deny involvement in the murder, have mentioned Mr Guede in their statements so far.

Police have allegedly found traces of DNA from Ms Knox, 20, on the handle of a knife which belonged to her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 23, who is also in prison.

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