An Italian student who shared the house where the British student Meredith Kercher was murdered told a Perugia court yesterday of her horror at discovering that her flatmate and friend had been brutally killed.
Philomena Romanelli, a trainee lawyer who shared the flat with Ms Kercher, an American called Amanda Knox and another Italian girl, described how she had gone to Perugia's "Fair of the Dead", a market held around Halloween, when she received a call from Ms Knox. The American is on trial together with her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, for the murder of Ms Kercher.
"Amanda told me in English, 'There is something strange'" in the cottage the students shared, Ms Romanelli told the court. "She said, 'I arrived and found the front door open, I found bloodstains in the bathroom, I took a shower and now I'm going to Raffaele's house to bring him over.'
"I told her to check the flat more carefully and call me back right away," she went on. "I couldn't understand clearly what she was trying to tell me. Something had happened but I couldn't understand what.
"I was worried," she continued. "I tried calling Meredith after a couple of minutes but her phone kept ringing. Then I called Amanda and she told me that the window of my room was broken and my room was in a mess. I told her to call the Carabinieri and that I was coming over right away."
The prosecution claims that Ms Knox's behaviour on the morning after the murder was suspicious. She claimed to have come home from her boyfriend's flat to have a shower because she preferred her own shower to the one in his house. She went ahead and took the shower despite finding bloodstains in the bathroom, then went away again apparently without noticing there had been a break-in.
Ms Romanelli drove to the cottage – she had spent the previous night at her boyfriend's flat – arriving some 20 minutes later. Her friends and flatmates told her that "a disaster" had happened in her room. "I went in and found the wardrobe open, clothes were thrown around everywhere, it was in a terrible mess," she told the court. "The first thing I did was check for my jewellery and I found that it was where I had left it... Then I found that my sunglasses and handbag and computer were still there. There was glass under the window and also both on top of and underneath the clothes and lying on top of the computer case."
She noticed that some of the window glass was lying on top of articles taken from the wardrobe rather than underneath them, as might be expected from a break-in. "I said to my friends, 'He must have been a stupid burglar, he didn't take anything,'" she said.
The police told Ms Romanelli that Ms Kercher's two mobile phones had been found in a garden nearby. "I was stunned that Meredith didn't have her phones with her," she said, "because she was never separated from her English phone so that she could always be in touch with her mother. So this made me even more worried."
The door of Ms Kercher's room was locked. Mr Solecito told Ms Romanelli that he had tried to get in but failed. Then her boyfriend, Luca Altieri, kicked the door down. She said, "I had a fleeting glimpse of the quilt" covering Ms Kercher's body. "Luca said, 'There's blood everywhere,' the policemen made us all leave the house immediately, I was crying and so was Paola and Marco. Luca and Raffaele were not crying. As for Amanda, she cried a little then stopped – she didn't burst out wailing." The trial continues.
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