The verdict of Italy’s Supreme Court, exonerating Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of involvement in the murder of the English student Meredith Kercher, leaves Ms Kercher’s family struggling again to understand how and why their daughter met her terrible end.
But the verdict will come as a huge relief to the many people around the world convinced that Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito were victims of an outrageous miscarriage of justice. A line has been drawn under the whole affair.
And about time too. 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 springboard for blogging him/herself to death about the latest ramifications 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. How deeply mired in controversy a legal system can become when decisive action is taken rashly, before crucial evidence is in.
I had the misfortune to be present in Rome, as the correspondent of The Independent, when Meredith Kercher was killed in November 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, talked to local people, visited the bar where Ms 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 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, a claim that led directly to Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito’s convictions, even though there was no evidence for it and the claim was dropped during the appeal. No convincing forensic evidence of the presence of Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito at the crime scene was ever produced, and the “murder weapon” later found in Mr Sollecito’s kitchen did not match the victim’s wounds, while claims that Ms Kercher’s DNA was on the blade were rejected. The only justification for the “caso chiuso” claim was that, in an all-night interrogation without an interpreter, Ms Knox had admitted being in the house where the killing occurred, and had agreed with the police suggestion that Mr 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 Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito. So Mr 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 Ms Knox and Mr 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 Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito 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. Goodbye to all that. Good riddance to the whole putrid industry.