The former boyfriend of Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, has denied making jokes on Facebook about the murder of British student Meredith Kercher.
He served nearly four years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the 2007 killing but was released in 2015 after being exonerated in Italy’s most senior court.
However, Mr Sollecito, 31, has provoked outrage in Italy after journalist Selvaggia Lucarelli revealed his lurid remarks – including an apparently tongue-in-cheek comment on the disposal of a body – to a number of closed Facebook groups which feature jokes about femicide, rape and murder.
In particular, there was suspicion that Mr Sollecito, who was using his personal Facebook account baring his full name, was making jokes related to the Kercher murder and his former status as a convicted killer.
He has denied that the comments were connected to Kercher, saying he would “never drag her into it” and was just playing the “game of these groups”.
Since his release from prison, Mr Sollecito has maintained his status in the public eye, presenting a TV show about murder victims and also launching an app which is marketed as a “a social network for graves”.
Writing on her Facebook page, Ms Lucarelli posted screenshots of Mr Sollecito’s participation in several groups on the network, including one called “Pastorizia never dies” (meaning “Shepherds never die”) and #accazduro, meaning “with a hard d***”.
A comment which caused particular controversy was a response to someone who asked: “Master, teach me to cancel traces of a murder, as I have a couple of things to solve.”
Mr Sollecito replied: “It's easy: s*** on it and nobody will come near [the scene]!”
This was interpreted by some to be a reference to the Kercher murder scene, where faeces was reportedly found in the toilet. The same group also features numerous jokes about how to kill ex-girlfriends, causing further offence.
Another joke which caused controversy was posted on #accazduro. In an apparent reference to his reputation as a killer before being cleared, Mr Sollecito wrote: “When I go in a shop selling pots and pans and I ask ‘Do you have a copper set?’ And the shop assistant recognises you and says: ‘If you're looking for knives you need to go to the shop nearby’,” followed by a “feeling annoyed” emoji.
Numerous comments on both groups, and shown in Ms Lucarelli’s screenshots, referenced Ms Knox and Kercher – which Mr Sollecito interacted with. He also made jokes about killing another member of one of the groups “gently and painlessly”.
Ms Lucarelli said the group encouraged “crime, bullying, stupidity and bad taste, according to cases” and said the group was “laughing about Meredith” with Mr Sollecito.
Other Italians were equally outraged and expressed concerns that the groups were sexist.
“I hope Meredith Kercher's mom never reads this,” said Brunella Vedani. “She lost a daughter and keeps losing her by the hand of this group of nutheads.”
And Enrico Baretti said: “I am disgusted. I didn't think we could be at these levels. This is the worst example of social media that could ever exist, and potentially very dangerous.”
However, Mr Sollecito denied that he had any leading role in the Facebook groups, which he said were intended to be “light-hearted” and made fun dramatising everyday events.
“I never mentioned Meredith in the comments and I never drag her into it, it doesn’t seem at all pleasant to do so,” Mr Sollecito told Radio Cusano Campus, adding “also I have my limits in my jokes.”
Tackling accusations that the groups encouraged violence against women, he said: “There is no link between these groups and femicide, and whoever says there is is talking nonsense.”
He also responded directly to his comment about defecating on a corpse, saying: “I said he should s*** on it, but it was a way of saying, because if you really s*** on it you leave more tracks. Mine was a stupid answer to a stupid question, it is simply the game of these groups”.
The outrage reflects a growing backlash in Italy against bad taste internet humour, which often takes place in closed social media groups.
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