Prosecutor calls for Kercher suspects to be charged

  • @peterpopham

It has been almost eight months since the English student Meredith Kercher was found dead under a bloody duvet in Perugia with two deep gashes to the throat, and this week the chief prosecutor finally wrapped up his investigation into the murder.

His conclusion? The culprits are the three suspects who have been in jail all these months: Amanda Knox, 20, the American exchange student with whom Ms Kercher shared the house, Ms Knox's Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 24, also a student in the city, and Rudy Hermann Guede, 20, a drifter and reputed drug dealer, originally from Ivory Coast, who had lived in the city as a child.

The prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, will pass his findings to the lawyers of the three suspects who have 20 days to raise objections. A judge will then decide whether there are sufficient grounds to charge the alleged killers. All three deny involvement in the killing, although Mr Guede admits that he was in the flat on the evening in question. The first hearing could take place in September.

The murder of the 21-year-old Leeds University student from Coulsdon, Surrey, caused a sensation in Italy and beyond, with graphic speculation about a possible sex orgy gone horribly wrong.

Ms Knox was arrested and during a late-night interrogation she admitted that she was in the shared house at the time of the killing but insisted that she played no part in it: she said she was in the kitchen at the time, and when she heard her flatmate's screams merely covered her ears. She pinned the blame on a Congolese bar owner and musician, long resident in the city, called Patrick Lumumba.

However Mr Lumumba was able to call numerous witnesses to attest to his alibi that he had been serving in his bar throughout the evening. He was released from custody and eventually absolved of any involvement in the killing.

Mr Sollecito claims that he was at his flat in another part of the city, and Ms Knox, denying her earlier admission that she was at home when Ms Kercher was murdered, said that she had also spent the night at her boyfriend's place.

The murder happened on the night after Hallowe'en. Perugia, a strikingly handsome medieval city on a steep-sided plateau in Umbria, is home to Italy's most popular university course for foreign students and hosts a large and cosmopolitan student body.

Ms Kercher spent the evening at the home of girlfriends in the city eating supper and watching a video. She left early and when she arrived home found that the three suspects were there. Both Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito have admitted that they spent most of the day smoking marijuana.

As all three suspects have denied involvement in the murder the chain of events remains speculative, but the prosecutors believe that when Ms Kercher refused to take part in an orgy she was forced to have sex with Mr Guede, and subsequently killed. She was first strangled then stabbed, perhaps with the carving knife that Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito brought from his flat and which was found to have the DNA of both Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito on it.

The report says that Mr Guede "forced Ms Kercher to undergo sexual acts with genital or manual penetration" in the presence and with the assistance of the other two.

Prosecutors claim that after the murder the suspects smashed a window with a rock to make it look as if Ms Kercher was the victim of a robbery gone wrong. They also stole €300, two credit cards and two mobile phones for the same reason.