On 2nd November 2007, a beautiful young British student, Meredith Kercher, was found with her throat cut in the bedroom of her rented apartment in Perugia, Italy. Her flatmate, American student Amanda Knox and Knox's then-boyfriend, Raffaelle Sollecito, were eventually charged with her murder along with Rudy Guede, a pot dealer with joint Italian/Ivorian citizenship. The stage was set for a drama of Shakespearean proportions.
This case was, from the beginning, a media-led farce with not-so-subtle racist, sexist and anti-American undertones. The British press in particular were keen to paint Amanda Knox as a complete slag as well as a keen drug taker and party girl; Sollecito became the weird loner with the creepy website; and Rudy Guede was a drug-dealing immigrant, ungrateful to the Italian family that adopted him from his home country. The press had a field day when they learned that Amanda Knox's nickname back home was 'Foxy Knoxy' and that she had once written a short story about a man who drugs and rapes a young girl. Similarly with Sollecito, when pictures emerged of him posing with a meat cleaver and a bottle of bleach, it was easy to paint him as a deranged young man with sick, murderous fantasies. Rudy Guede was even easier to pigeonhole. He was black. He had links to the 'underworld'. He received a fast-track trial and was quickly sentenced to 30 years for 'his part' in the murder.
Guede's reasoning for requesting the fast-track trial was that he feared a conspiracy between the two lovers, Knox and Sollecito. He claimed to have been in the bathroom when the attack occurred, heard screaming and Knox and Kercher fighting, and returned to find Meredith's blood-soaked body. He made quick attempts to clean up the mess before panicking and fleeing to Germany where he was consequently arrested for riding a train without a ticket and returned to Italy to face trial. The evidence that convicted Guede? A bloody fingerprint on a pillowcase that matched his.
Raffaelle Sollecito and Amanda 'Foxy' Knox (a nickname given to her aged 8 due to her fancy footwork on the soccer pitch by the way, and in no way related to her supposed promiscuity) told the same story at their joint trial. They told the court that they spent the evening at Sollecito's apartment where they smoked a bit of weed and watched a movie before Knox returned to her apartment and found blood on the floor, evidence of a break-in and then called the police who broke down Kercher's locked bedroom door to find her body.
The prosecution alleged that Knox, Sollecito and Guede had tried to induce Kercher into a 'drug-fuelled sex game', she refused and was held down by Sollecito, sexually-assaulted by Guede and had her throat cut by Knox as a punishment. The jury believed them. After 22-year-old Guede's earlier 30-year sentence, 23-year-old Knox and 25-year-old Sollecito received 26 and 25 year sentences respectively, the extra year given to Knox, seemingly, for being the culprit who actually brandished the knife.
I followed this case rather closely throughout the year-long trial as I was fascinated by it on many levels. The victim had been spending a year during a foreign country, much like I am, and so I was drawn to it for that reason. I was also compelled by the young ages of the defendants, their middle-class backgrounds and the quite disgusting media coverage of the whole spectacle. The over-dramatisation of murder cases, particularly those involving attractive young females, is nothing new but this appeared to take it to a whole new level. The media vultures swarmed and tore Knox's character to shreds. Any member of the jury who even glanced at a newspaper after her arrest would find it impossible to not be influenced by the way they attacked her. But none of the media's attacks made any sense. They focused on this 'Foxy Knoxy' character which, as I already mentioned, was bollocks, and they used that short story that she wrote as proof of her sick fantasies. Ignoring these things, Amanda Knox appeared to be a perfectly normal, intelligent and popular young woman. Hey, I once wrote a short story based on the Oedipus Complex. Doesn't mean I fantasise about it!
Now, I want to make myself clear here - I am not in the habit of defending murderers. If Knox, Guede and Sollecito acted as the prosecution allege they did, then they deserve every year of the sentence that they received.
The problem is though, I just don't think that there is enough evidence. I think what we have witnessed is a panicked Italian judicial system, feeling the focus of the world upon them, determined to show that they punish criminals to the full extent of their power. We have a crime with no motive, 'no blazing gun' as one writer has put it, and 3 suspects with different stories who have all been convicted. DNA evidence is slim - highly questionable in fact - and I am amazed that they have been found guilty. Each is allowed an automatic appeal in around a year's time, and I don't think that we have heard the end of this case just yet.
Let's not forget that, at the centre of all this, a 22-year-old girl with her whole live ahead of her has died. She had her throat cut like an animal as she lay in her bed in a picture-perfect Italian town. It is an absolute tragedy. Now, we have 3 more young adults who have had their own lives cut short as a consequence.
Wouldn't it be equally as tragic if their loss were as needless and unnecessary as Meredith Kercher's?