Amanda Knox: A retrial, two films and endless speculation - will the fascination with Meredith Kercher's murder ever end?

Had the police and prosecutors been a little more patient Knox and Sollecito might never even have been arrested

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The Independent Online

I am sick to death of the Amanda Knox case. I am sick of hearing about it, thinking about it, reading about it. Learning that another film director has had the lousy idea of making another lousy film about it. Reading the blog of yet another opinionated know-nothing who sees the horrible, cold-blooded murder of a studious young woman from Coulsdon as the perfect spring board for blogging him/herself to death about the latest ramfications of a case, all of whose significant details were long ago established, and about which there really is nothing more to be said. Except to say – how badly wrong the justice system of a wonderful, enlightened country can go.

I had the misfortune to be present in Rome, as the correspondent of The Independent, when Meredith Kercher was killed in October 2007. I was by no means the first to realise that this tale would run and run – credit for that goes to the tabloid freelancer Nick Pisa, upon whom I understand the main journalist in the latest film is broadly based and who wrote millions of words on the subject and can also take the credit for popularising the phrase ‘Foxy Knoxy’. But I went up to Perugia the day after the murder along with colleagues, stared at the pretty cottage where Meredith was killed, talked to local people, visited the bar where Knox had worked and whose owner she ended up dragging into the case when he had absolutely no connection with it.

I was there again a few days later when the papers announced, quoting police, ‘caso chiuso’: case closed. Guilty persons identified. Whole thing wrapped up. Marvel at the speed and dispatch of the Italian authorities when push comes to shove!

I read, and duly reported, the police claim that the murder had been committed by Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Patrick Lumumba in a “sexual attack” in which all three were involved. No evidence was produced to support this at the time, though it led directly Knox and Sollecito’s conviction. No evidence of such a “sexual attack” has ever been found. The only justification for the “caso chiuso” claim was that, in an all-night interrogation without an interpreter, Knox had admitted being in the house where the killing occurred, and had agreed that Lumumba was involved – a statement she tried to retract within hours.

A clearer example of the perils of screaming ‘caso chiuso’ before proper forensic investigation have been undertaken, and in the absence even of a persuasive confession, would be hard to find. Because 10 days later I reported, as the headline on my piece ran, “DNA from mystery ‘fourth suspect’ found in flat of murdered student.”

Close forensic examination of Meredith Kercher’s bedroom, where her body was discovered, revealed no evidence whatever of the presence of the three people accused of the crime, but abundant bloody leavings of a fourth person. Identified as a local drifter and part-time drug dealer called Rudy Guede, he was tracked down to Germany, where he had fled after the murder, and brought back.

Police and the public prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, were seemingly committed to the guilt of Knox and Sollecito. So Lumumba – the only one of the three with a cast-iron alibi (from customers in his bar) – was duly removed from the picture and Rudy Guede substituted. He was convicted in a separate fast-track trial and is still in jail.

Had the police and prosecutors been a little more patient – had they not felt so put upon by the international attention the case drew right from the outset – they might have waited a few days for the forensic people to do their job. And in the absence of forensic evidence against them – and bearing in mind that it was they who first summoned the police to the crime scene – Knox and Sollecito might never even have been arrested.

We would have been left with the squalid and ugly murder of an innocent girl by a disturbed and homeless immigrant who had twice broken into premises in the previous weeks and who on one such occasion was in possession of a knife. The Kercher family would have had the closure they so richly deserve. And Amanda and Raffaele would eventually have been left in peace to continue having sex, kissing in public, buying lingerie, puffing dope, watching videos, strumming the guitar, failing to flush the loo, singing in a loud voice and all the other student-type misdemeanours of which they (mostly her, actually) were certainly guilty. All of which stopped a long way short of murdering a friend for no good reason, when neither had ever done anything violent in their lives, or fulfilling the fantasies of sleazy prosecutors by staging occult sex orgies to coincide, roughly, with Halloween. 

Today Italy’s Supreme Court is expected to pronounce the final word on this pasticcio, this unholy mess. I very much doubt Knox and Sollecito will be acquitted for a second time: the Italian justice system has too much prestige invested in their convictions to allow such a disruptive verdict. Pressure from the American side has been wholly counter-productive – reminding Italians of all the ways the US has badgered and bullied them in the past. The probability is that this wholly unedifying saga will continue to run and run and run.