Peter Popham: Nice theory, but where's the proof?

Rome Notebook: None of the three accused has dropped even a hint that they were involved in an orgy
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The Independent Online

As the trial of Amanda Knox got under way in Perugia, a British Sunday newspaper yesterday published startling new details of how Meredith Kercher was killed. According to prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, Knox "probably pushed" the third accused, Rudy Guede, now serving a 30-year sentence for the murder, "into 'softening up' the English girl" for an "erotic game", the newspaper reported.

"When Guede failed because of energetic resistance by the victim," Mr Mignini's account continues, "the three became incensed and violent. They grabbed Kercher and tried to strangle her..."

Gripping stuff, and a big problem for Amanda Knox. But how did Mr Mignini discover these salacious details? Through confessions, witness accounts, tapped telephones? Was there a video camera or tape recorder running throughout? None of the above. None of the three accused has dropped even a hint that they were involved in an orgy, no party trash was discovered, nobody was peeking through the windows. The account seems to have emerged fully formed from the prosecutor's imagination.

At least that's the view of the judge who sentenced Guede before Christmas and who, in his report on the case, which The Independent has seen, dismisses Mr Mignini's "fanciful descriptive reconstruction" of the alleged orgy. Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are on trial because Meredith Kercher died horribly, and they gave conflicting accounts of what they were doing at the time and behaved suspiciously the next day.

It's disagreeable to pour cold water on a hot story, but for all we know the "orgy" in the Via della Pergola may well have been no more than a brutal sex attack by the man who is now in jail. The prosecution has everything to prove.

Caffeine hit

What do mafia hitm en do after they have done shooting? According to "Gomorra" author Roberto Saviano they go and have a coffee. They buy a box of profiteroles and scoff the lot. Or they dash home to watch the news, then pick up the PlayStation and carry on where they left off.

Stoop to conquer

Muslims protesting outside the Colosseum against the Gaza war at the weekend got down on their knees and prayed, providing a new angle on an old subject: ancient monument with massed Islamic bottoms. Muslims in Milan recently took the same action in Piazza del Duomo, home of the city's cathedral, to the grave irritation of the Church. Prostration, the ultimate gesture of self-abasement, today carries more menace than the clenched fist.