The recent 48 Hours mystery show once again attempted to lend credibility to the virtually laughable lone wolf theory. Despite its inaccuracies it seems fairly clear that the friends and family of Amanda Knox in all likelihood encouraged the 48 Hours show to air before the presentation of the crucial DNA evidence shortly to be discussed in court. Timing is after all everything and it may have been the last time anyone would actually take the show seriously, especially considering the main theme of the show boiled down to the simply ludicrous suggestion that Amanda Knox is somehow a victim in this case and the lone wolf theory is still a credible and valid scenario for what happened that night. For those of you who are still unaware of precisely what that means, it is the idea that Rudy Guede scaled a virtually un-climbable wall and crawled in through a window of the cottage in order to sexually assault and murder Meredith Kercher.

Many following the case long ago dismissed the theory as fantasy, even Guede himself who in his statements to police and diaries admits he was not the only person in the cottage that night. Yet we must also consider that this is virtually the only scenario that the defence can now use to exonerate Amanda and Raffaele as they both strenuously deny any involvement in Meredith’s murder. Despite the physical evidence suggesting their possible role, copious amounts of physical evidence of Guede’s involvement was found at the crime scene and a smaller amount of evidence leading to the defendants. The defence maintain this is the result of contamination and the abundance of his fingerprints and DNA suggests Guede and Guede alone killed Meredith. The prosecution allege that both Amanda and Raffaele were present in the cottage the night Meredith was killed and that once Guede had fled, a well organised and methodical clean up took place to conceal any physical evidence linking them to the crime scene. Unsurprisingly plenty of Guede’s DNA and fingerprints were left for investigators to find.

I discussed the lone wolf theory a few months ago, but as I have often found with this case, new information, ideas and personal reflection often encourages me to revisit important areas in more detail or with a slightly different perspective. I have decided to take a fresh look at this theory and explain why it is completely at odds with current psychology research and how evidence available about the set up and implementation of the crime further discredit this theory as a possibility. I have decided to write this at what is possibly the most crucial part of the trial proceeding so far: The presentation of the physical evidence linking Amanda and Raffaele to the murder of Meredith Kercher.

The Organised vs. Disorganised Offender

Although the definition of homicide is reasonably clear cut, the definition of sexual homicide is much more ambiguous. There are several clear differences seen in sexual murders: Firstly the idea that killing itself is sexually arousing, secondly that the murder is carried out in order to cover up a sexual crime and finally that the offence is a homicide that has some sexual component, but in which the exact motivational dynamics remain unclear (Schlesinger, 2007). The latter seems to be the most likely scenario in this case, despite the definition being slight ambiguous it does seem clear that the murder of Meredith Kercher was a sex related homicide, possibly with a rape/sodomy motivation.

According to ‘The Handbook of Psychological Approaches with Violent Offenders’, the organised vs. disorganised crime scene characterisation of sexual homicide offenders provides a useful insight into these types of crime (Ressler et al, 1986). Clues left at the crime scene can often indicate possible personality characteristics or clues about those involved, as can the nature of the offence, the way it was planned and executed.

The organised offender
Crimes committed by an organised offender are often carefully planned and executed, there is often evidence suggesting the offender brought with them items necessary to commit the crime (such as rope or tape to bind and silence the victim), especially those that might ensure they are able to fulfil certain needs or fantasies through the act of committing the crime. There is often evidence of careful planning and as a result these offenders are usually harder to catch as they are careful about leaving trace evidence behind.

The disorganised offender
A disorganised offender on the other hand often leaves a chaotic scene behind with evidence suggesting a spontaneous or unplanned attack with very little prior planning or pre preparation. The staging of a crime scene often occurs as a direct result of a spontaneous disorganised offence and is usually spotted by investigating officers as the resulting scene is conflicted and full of red flags. By their very nature, organised offenders have no need to stage a scene as theoretically they perceive to have prepared sufficiently to avoid detection in other ways. Disorganised offenders will often stage a crime scene to cover the spontaneity of the act and the inevitable fear of being caught.

The murder of Meredith Kercher
The evidence available so far indicates that this was a disorganised offence. The crime scene photos that have been released show a messy and chaotic scene, clothes all over the floor and blood everywhere. Evidence of staging also indicates a disorganised offence as does the alleged clean up attempt. Despite the evidence suggesting a certain amount of premeditation with the murder weapon having been taken from Raffaele’s apartment to the cottage, there is no way of proving that the intention was to kill Meredith with this knife therefore we cannot necessarily conclude this was an organised offence based solely on this information. Similarly, injuries sustained by the victim also suggest she was forcibly held and that some attempt was made to silence her, yet if we are to conclude this was an organised offence, surely the offender would have brought something with which to bind and/or gag the victim?

This does not seem to be the case but rather a spontaneous group attack that resulted in a violent and chaotic murder with a subsequent panicked attempt at concealing the truth about what had happened. This leads me to conclude that the murder of Meredith Kercher is an example of a disorganised sexual homicide. None of the group had any history of violence which can in part be explained by a group dynamic. Unsurprisingly, research indicates that 64% of first time violent sexual homicides can be classified as disorganised.

Further Confusion
Despite certain pieces of evidence suggesting that this was a disorganised offence, there are elements of the crime that do not fit this conclusion. Meredith was almost certainly sexually assaulted whilst she was still alive, an attempt was made to restrain her and evidence from a break down truck driver suggests that Raffaele’s Audi may have been in the driveway of the cottage that night. Sexual assault on a live victim, evidence of restraint and evidence suggesting an offender may have driven to the scene of the crime are all associated with organised offenders. This coupled with the suggestion that the murder weapon may have been taken to the crime scene rather confuses a possible classification of a disorganised offence

As I have said many times with these types of theory and research based pieces, no theory is ever perfect especially one as reductionist as the organised/disorganised offender. This theory has been criticised for these reasons in the past. Despite this, many profilers and police officers find these sorts of classifications useful and can usually see evidence pointing to one type or another.

I believe this theory is perhaps too simplistic as it does not take into account the involvement of one or more persons in a violent sexual homicide. The slight confusion we have already seen in typology and classification of violence, added to this new confusion about whether this was an organised or disorganised offence only serves to encourage my belief that several motives, ideas and schemas about ‘how to humiliate/wind-up/hurt Meredith’ may have come into play that night. I have already suggested the possibility that there may have been a sadist in the room as well as very different motives for each of the individuals involved. The idea that certain elements of the crime are organised whilst others are disorganised not only encourages the idea that more than one person was involved but also suggests that at least one group member was firmly out of the loop.

The Blitz Attack

If Rudy Guede really had been a lone wolf killer, apart from the evidence suggesting that the break in was staged, he would almost certainly be a disorganised offender. Aside from the abundance of his DNA and fingerprints left at the scene, there are certain things we would expect to see from a lone disorganised offender that do not seem to be evident in this case.

Firstly, disorganised offenders often feel inadequate and their attacks are usually sexual in nature. These types of assailants, especially those with the intention of sexually assaulting or raping the victim, will often approach the victim from behind and due to the spontaneous nature of these offences they will usually initiate what’s known as a blitz attack. The blitz attack is primarily concerned with ensuring the victim is unable to resist or fight usually because the offender doubts their own ability to subdue the victim. The most common method of ensuring compliance is to render the victim unconscious. Unfortunately due to the amount of force employed when administering blows to (often) the head, the victim usually suffers horrendous blunt force injuries which more often than not result in serious injury or death. Meredith had no such injuries and any injuries she did sustain came much later than the initial attack.

If we are to conclude that Rudy Guede was a typical lone, first time, disorganised killer we can surely conclude he would have participated in this style of ambush, after all in one study 82% of young offenders who engaged in sexual attacks of this nature did so by initiating a blitz attack on their victims. Similarly the lone wolf theory suggests that Guede climbed through a window in order to access Meredith when he could quite easily have knocked on the door and pounced or at least chosen a method of entry that was easier and less noisy. If we are to accept the lone wolf theory as credible then we must also accept that by climbing through the window, Rudy Guede was aiming to surprise Meredith by initiating an attack to subdue, sexually assault and kill her yet the evidence suggests no such blitz attack ever took place and that the victim was very much conscious throughout most if not all of her ordeal.

The injuries sustained by Meredith are concrete, unchangeable and unchallengeable. These injuries cannot be manipulated or denied to suit. Meredith sustained defensive knife injuries to her hands in what the medical examiner likely concluded was an attempt to fight off an attack from a person standing in front of her brandishing a knife. Victims of disorganised offenders especially those that adopt the element of surprise (as the lone wolf theory suggests by insinuating Rudy climbed through the window), very rarely have defensive injuries suggesting a struggle, Meredith had several including various bruises.

Similarly research about these types of offenders indicates they often mutilate the victim by cutting or slashing the breasts, face, abdomen and genital area. Meredith sustained no post mortem mutilation. These types of offenders will often sexually assault or rape the victim after death, the medical examiner has stated he believes Meredith was in all likelihood sexually assaulted before she was seriously injured and later killed, this itself indicates some kind of restraint would have been necessary,yet this type of behaviour is not associated with disorganised offenders. The victims of certain sexual homicides often suffer injuries consistent with those found on Meredith’s body, injuries such as evidence of manual strangulation and those consistent with overkill, yet the injuries sustained by the victim do not fit the current theory of what we would expect to find in a lone, first time disorganised offender like Rudy Guede also he had no history of violence.

The crime reconstruction and evidence from injuries sustained by the victim suggests she was ambushed rather than blitzed. This in itself could suggest a planned attack, a sudden burst of ‘group’ anger or an escalation of a previously planned event.

I have previously spoken about how three people with no history of violence could easily be just as, if not more violent than a single individual with a history of violence. I still maintain that Rudy Guede would be extremely unlikely to commit this sort of violent offence alone and without provocation or consultation with anyone else. The same questions remain, why did he choose Meredith? How did he know she would be alone?

These are all questions that are never likely to be answered. This theory quite simply does not fit. It will never fit because it didn’t actually happen and insinuating that it did not only makes the 48 hours show and everyone associated with it look incredibly stupid, it also attempts to challenge an awful lot of literature and an awful lot of people, much smarter and more knowledgeable than I that will tell you exactly the same thing. Rudy Guede has not, will not and will never be proven a lone wolf killer.

A Toilet Break?

If we are to believe that Rudy Guede was a lone wolf, so overcome by lust for Meredith he broke into her house in order to rape and or kill her then we’d have almost certainly seen further evidence of sexual activity. So far the sexual assault Meredith suffered seemed to have been abandoned at some point, a point I believe Rudy ‘bottled it’ and, possibly due to excitement, fear or drugs, headed for the toilet. These sorts of actions in a lone offender do not make sense. Something spooked him that’s for sure and if he had been a lone offender there is absolutely no way he’d have left his victim in a position to escape or alert the police by going to the toilet in the middle of the attack.

Rudy admits to being at the cottage the night Meredith was killed and maintains he was on the toilet after eating a spicy Kebab when someone came into the house and stabbed Meredith. He claims to have tried to help her and then became scared and ran away. I don’t need to tell you that most of this story is what one judge accurately described as a ‘highly improbable fantasy’ yet his faeces was found in the toilet the next day indicating that he had at some point gone to the toilet. Some people believe that Rudy Guede’s version of events, despite being absurd do actually have some basis in truth as he has the awful habit of attempting to explain away things he knows the investigating officers can incriminate him with.

Like the faeces he left in the toilet for example. Rudy’s own version of events actually explains that he rushed off the toilet, had a confrontation with the killer and tried to help Meredith by stemming the flow of blood with towels, allegedly two blood soaked towels were found at the crime scene. With this in mind we could consider that Rudy became overly excited or scared during the attack, resulting in the need to visit the toilet, we could also suggest he was in the toilet before Meredith was killed. It seems highly likely that as the faeces was found in the toilet and Rudy attempted to explain it that he actually used the bathroom before Meredith was killed and certainly before he fled the cottage, after all I doubt he would hang around to use the loo after the piercing scream and the resulting knife wound, as Brian S explains in his theory, probably caused them all to flee. If the lone wolf theory is to be believed, doesn’t it seem a bit odd that Guede would be sat on the loo whilst the victim was left to her own devices? I think a far more likely scenario is that Guede was not alone in the cottage that night, Amanda and Raffaele were ‘taking care of Meredith’ while he dashed to the loo.

The Neck

I am still struggling to understand exactly how all three came to be present in the cottage that night and the exact sequence of events that led to the attack on Meredith. Arnold Layne recently put forward an excellent possible scenario as did Brian S, both can be found on TJMK.

Some evidence such as the knife and possibly Raffaele’s car in the driveway suggests an element of planning, yet other factors suggest it was anything but, as the crime itself seems rather disorganised. There certainly seem to be a number of fantasies coming through, specifically hinting at one or more of those involved gaining some kind of enjoyment in watching the victim suffer and, due to the nature of the injuries some possible fantasies linked to the victims neck.

Meredith sustained several neck injuries consistent with being manually strangled, cut with a knife before being fatally stabbed. The crime reconstruction has one of the defendants holding Meredith from behind, the other to the side holding her head up and exposing the neck with the third member of the group attacking with the knife.

So what is this apparent fascination with the neck? If they’d wanted to ensure the victim did not scream why not attempt to use a rudimentary gag such as a cloth or a sock? Though many have suggested that the neck injuries were specifically inflicted to ensure the victim didn’t scream it could (and this is where it gets pretty distressing) also be suggested that the attackers wanted to hear poor Meredith plead and beg for her life, they probably hadn’t counted on her screaming.

Any sex related homicide will usually reveal something that has a special kind of significance for the killer. I believe this may have been Meredith’s neck. They could have silenced her in any number of ways yet I believe they chose not to and underestimated her capacity to scream, it was in all likelihood her final scream, heard by a witness, that may have encouraged the fatal ‘panic blow’. It could be suggested that as this was possibly a panic blow, that the offenders had not yet finished ‘playing’ with Meredith, her final scream may have sadly sealed her fate but also ensured her suffering was not prolonged further.

Before she was fatally injured the medical examiner also determined that Meredith had been strangled. This attempt was clearly unsuccessful. According to this report:

“Only eleven pounds of pressure placed on both carotid arteries for ten seconds is necessary to cause unconsciousness.4 How-ever, if pressure is released immediately, consciousness will be regained within ten seconds. To completely close off the trachea, three times as much pressure (33 lbs.) is required. Brain death will occur in 4 to 5 minutes, if strangulation persists”

As Meredith was still very much alive when she was stabbed it could be suggested that whoever tried to strangle her, could not complete the act or believed they already had. Strangulation is more closely associated with sexual homicide than other injuries present. Most offenders who engage in strangulation apply the wrong type of pressure, use an incorrect and not yet perfected ‘technique’ especially if they are using their hands, I can imagine it’s very difficult to strangle someone if you don’t know what you are doing and especially if they are kicking and resisting. Meredith may have temporarily lost conscious, regained it and attempted to break free. This may have been the critical moment when the assailants decided to fatally injure her with the knife but not before she was taunted viciously.

Evidence available about the manner in which Meredith died suggests not only a vicious group attack but an apparent fascination with a specific area of her body upon which she sustained injuries above and beyond what was necessary to subdue or kill. This apparent fascination with Meredith’s neck could indicate the role of certain fantasies or schemas about ‘how to kill someone’. It seems odd that the assailants specifically chose to focus on her neck, after all stab wounds to the heart or abdomen are just as fatal. What was it about Meredith’s neck that provoked the injuries she sustained? I’m afraid we will never know but it is an important point to consider especially if we are to conclude that sexual fantasy may have played a role in her death.

The Two Stages of the Motive

If we consider that the murder itself was not premeditated we could also consider the motive in two different stages, this is not to suggest they are not inextricably linked as they inevitably are, however it’s a lot harder to consider the motive for the murder when attempting to understand not only the complex group dynamic but the crime as a whole. The initial motive for the attack on Meredith is still unclear. It may seem difficult to separate these two but when we do it becomes a little easier to understand.

At some stage and for whatever reason Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede ended up at 7 Via Della Pergola. They may have been high, they may have been sober or they may have intended to scare Meredith, initiate a group sex activity, even commit an act of violence. Though it may seem ridiculous to suggest this is unimportant, it really is the case. The crime scene evidence suggests the involvement of all three and though clarity and closure for the family would be ideal I fear we will never really know how or why this attack started. So it follows that we must study the trail of evidence left both at the crime scene and on the victim’s body itself. The evidence put forward so far suggests that if the plan was not to kill Meredith that night that the motive of the group may have suddenly changed at a critical point.

At one point the motive of the group changed and although the motive for the initial attack seems unclear, the motive for the later stage of the attack is not. At one point it changed from the sexual assault, argument or game, to killing Meredith.

This became the primary motive of one or all members of the group, why else would Meredith have been so viciously strangled? Why did this not kill her? Why was the attempt at strangulation abandoned in favour of the more intrusive method which caused the injury she sustained to the neck that later caused her death? Why were the group so determined to kill Meredith Kercher?

That part at least is probably easily explainable. She knew them, she could identify them and the attack had already gone so far they knew that letting her get out alive would almost certainly mean serving a long jail sentence. They decided to silence her forever. They cut her throat, took her mobile phones, locked her in her bedroom and left her to die. Later having realised the chaos and incriminating evidence left behind, two of them returned to begin the clean-up and staging of the crime scene, the other went to dance the night away.

This is why, with the evidence available so far that I believe the right people are on trial for their role in the senseless and brutal murder of Meredith Kercher. If any of you are coming here for the first time having watched the 48 hours show I implore you to seek out more information. The show barely touched the surface of how brutal and cruel the murder of poor Meredith actually was and hopefully with the aid of a little psychology theory I have successfully achieved my objective of showing how, aside from merely the physical evidence suggesting it is in fact an impossible scenario, the lone wolf theory has no credibility and doesn’t make any sense in the real world.

“And late at night whilst on all fours, she used to watch me kiss the floor. What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with this picture?” – Placebo, ‘This Picture’

Imagine you knew nothing about Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito or the brutal murder they are accused of. Take a look at this picture and imagine you were the store owner who saw them in the ‘Bubble’ lingerie shop that day, what do you see?

I see a young couple, kissing and caressing each other and generally acting as if they haven’t a care in the world. I see two people who are deeply sexually attracted to each other and who can’t wait to get home for that ‘hot sex’ the store owner claims he overheard them discussing whilst browsing for and eventually purchasing a camisole and a g-string in his shop. If you imagine they were just another ordinary couple, excited, giggling and petting in your shop you’d be forgiven for muttering about ‘kids these days’ and carrying on with your work, but as Brian Molko would say, what’s wrong with this picture?

24 hours prior to the scenes captured on this CCTV footage, the young couple in the video, had been present when the body of Amanda’s 21 year old housemate Meredith Kercher was discovered in the house they shared with two Italian girls. A few days later the couple were arrested on suspicion of murder and sexual violence.

This picture marks the moment I ‘fell off the fence’ with regard to my own personal views about the the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito who are currently on trial for their part in the sexual assault and murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher.

Meredith’s partially clothed body was found concealed by a duvet on the floor of her bedroom on the 2nd November 2007. The medical examiner determined that before death she had most likely been sexually assaulted (by the now convicted Rudy Guede) and tortured with the blade of a 13.4 inch kitchen knife. Her throat had been savagely cut resulting in a slow and painful death.

Furthermore, the evidence suggests that Meredith had been locked in her room to die; her phones were stolen and thrown in a nearby garden to prevent what could have been her only remaining chance to be saved. The medical examiner Luca Lalli stated in a recent closed hearing that Meredith had in all likelihood been attacked by more than one assailant.

The evidence available so far indicates that one or all of the assailants ensured and took pleasure in Meredith Kercher’s suffering during the humiliating attack that resulted in her tragic death. The victim sustained numerous injuries as she was taunted with the knife, forcibly held and fought for her life. There is no doubt in my mind that the victim suffered a horrifying and sustained attack designed to invoke fear and to humiliate.

Motive and group dynamic

As yet the motive remains unclear. In a previous post I suggested that the murder of Meredith Kercher could be categorised as a sex related homicide and possibly one with a rape and/or sodomy motivation with humiliation and domination as a possible motive. This could fit with any number of scenarios including a premeditated plan to rape and/or kill or a ‘game’ designed to frighten or intimidate Meredith which got out of hand.

Both scenarios can be explained by a possible group dynamic or ‘pack mentality’ leading to the deindividuation of group members that could have resulted in the level of violence that night. This is an important point to consider as neither the convicted Rudy Guede nor the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have a history of violence.

In this post I also discussed possible roles within the group and a hierarchical structure with one or more of the assailants ‘falling into’ their individual role, one restraining the victim, one sexually assaulting her and the other facing the victim and taunting her with the tip of the knife. It seems likely that each individual had their own reasons for taking part in the attack and that certain fantasies or ideas came into play as a result

Despite the theory that a pack mentality resulted in the level of violence that night I also discussed the idea that this ‘group’ in all likelihood had a leader or a ‘puppet master’ pulling the strings and conducting the show, I suggested that this person was in all likelihood the knife wielder. DNA evidence has implicated Amanda Knox in this role.

The idea that there was a more dominant person in the room that night has troubled me, as has the evidence suggesting the apparent excitement of the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the days following the murder, this coupled with the repeated use of the word in many blogs, news reports and forums and has done nothing to dissuade me that there may have been a sadist in the room that night.

The Sadist

Sadism is the act of deriving pleasure (often sexual) from inflicting or watching the suffering, humiliation or pain of others. The spectrum of sadism is wide and ranges from a person who enjoys dominating a willing partner as part of a healthy sexual relationship, to the more severe end of the spectrum which can include the torture, strangulation, rape or murder of an unwilling ‘participant’. Usually the signs of sexual sadism begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Clinicians charged with treating those at the more dangerous and severe end of the spectrum believe that this type of behaviour is usually chronic and increases in severity over time.

Some have theorised that certain individuals may go on to demonstrate sadistic tendencies as the result of a fragile childhood fraught with tension, abuse or violence, it could be argued that the uncertainty or powerlessness felt by these individual during times that are crucial to their individual development, could result in an attempt to compensate by being strong and tough to avoid feeling vulnerable, out of control or abandoned, the construction of these compensating drives could mingle with sexual ideas or fantasies during adolescence and early adulthood. This in turn could lead to a desire to dominate, control or humiliate others and derive sexual pleasure from it.

Research by Grey et al (2003) has indicated that all sorts of people from all walks of life engage in what is sometimes referred to as’ deviant sexual fantasising’, studies have also reported no significant gender differences in the frequency of sadistic sexual fantasies.

Some researchers believe certain childhood indicators could be linked to the development of deviant sexual fantasies in adolescence or early adulthood, some of these indicators include daydreaming, headaches, nightmares, poor body image, phobias and isolation. Behaviour indicators in adolescence and early adulthood include chronic masturbation, chronic lying and rebelliousness.

Some people who experience deviant sexual fantasies can later go on to act upon them, some may do so with a willing partner and some may go on to sexually assault, abuse or even kill. Possible behavioural indicators for sexual murder later in life, outlined by Burgess et al (1986) have also been seen in a non-offending group who also experienced deviant sexual fantasies.

In other words, attempting to pin-point whether deviant sexual fantasising is linked to behavioural clues in childhood or adolescence is too reductionist, people are so different and may go on to act on these sexual fantasies for different reasons and in different ways. It’s not always possible to tell who will act on these fantasies and if they do, who will take them too far and who will enjoy them as part of a healthy sex life.

Indeed, in certain cases it seems that the severity of these types of deviant sexual fantasies only becomes apparent when someone gets hurt or killed. It may also be the case that these fantasies and the desire to act upon them are only awakened upon an encounter or interaction with another human being who is or who the individual believes is a willing ‘partner’ in the fantasy.

Several female killers have reportedly been ‘drawn in’ to the world of BDSM and played along with or shared intimate sexual fantasies with a partner they later assisted in rape and murder. Myra Hindley is one example, Karla Homolka another.

A sadist in the room?

The evidence available so far indicates that the objective of the attack may have been to humiliate, dominate or control Meredith, possibly with the objective of ‘softening her up’ for a sexual assault or rape. Another possibility is the idea that they wanted to frighten Meredith and things got out of hand very quickly, these are just two of a number of scenarios put forward by various individuals following the case as to how the attack came about, but one factor remains constant and unchallengeable; the attack on Meredith was extremely brutal and sadistic.

Evidence of prolonged humiliation/suffering of the victim:

The evidence suggests that during the attack, the victim ceased to be a human being to the assailants and merely became a toy with which to do as they pleased. Evidence suggesting that the victim was subjected to an attack designed to control/dominate/humiliate and/or prolong her fear and suffering includes:

  • Injuries consistent with being forcibly and very roughly restrained
  • Some of the victim’s clothes were removed
  • Evidence of sexual assault (possible rape motive)
  • Knife wounds indicating she was taunted and tortured prior to death
  • Manual strangulation
  • Extremely violent slow and painful death (overkill)
  • The victim was locked away to die alone and in pain
  • The victim was denied any chance to call for help by having her lifeline (the phones) removed

Bruising to the victim’s lips as well as injuries to her neck and throat suggests any pleas and cries for help or mercy went unnoticed or were disregarded. The victim was completely under the control of the assailants. It could be argued that the injuries sustained by the victim increased as a result of her attempting to free herself from their grasp, as the evidence suggests this could be the case it could also be argued that the aim of the attack was to make Meredith submissive to the individual ‘needs’ or ‘desires’ of the group. For Rudy this could have been the desire to have sex with Meredith, for Amanda and Raffaele this could have been the desire to see her humiliated and frightened.

Evidence to suggest the assailants may have derived sexual pleasure from the humiliation and suffering of the victim

The evidence of a group dynamic leading to this level of violence sadly does not surprise me. In many cases of group initiated violence the victim suffers injuries above and beyond what is necessary to kill, this is referred to by law enforcement agencies as overkill. However, one of the most tragic and horrific aspects of this case is the brutal and degrading final hour of Meredith’s life as the result of an act I am convinced was designed and executed to ensure total suffering, control and humiliation, this fact is crucial in terms of understanding the etiology of this crime.

Rudy Guede
Despite having taken part in a brutal and senseless crime against another human being I do not believe Rudy Guede was sexually aroused by what he saw that night, in fact I believe he was sat on the toilet having ‘bottled it’, probably unable to ‘perform’. He did not call for an ambulance; he did not attempt to save the victim instead he ran like a coward, but I suspect that his motivation for running was cowardice rather than the enjoyment of ensuring the victim suffered. Rudy Guede deserves his 30 year sentence and so far he has done nothing to bring closure to the victims long suffering family yet I do not believe he was the instigator or ‘puppet master’ that night. He is to put it plainly, too much of a coward.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito

During the attack
The suspected murder weapon contains Amanda’s DNA on the handle of the knife and the victims DNA on this tip; this suggests that Amanda wielded the knife, tortured and eventually killed Meredith Kercher. The crime reconstruction has suggested that Raffaele restrained Meredith and if this is the case it was he that caused the bruises on her arms and lips as well as the broken hyoid bone in her neck. It could also have been Raffaele that attempted to strangle the victim. The crime reconstruction, supported by forensic evidence, has placed AK and RS firmly at the centre of this crime in an attack designed to ensure Meredith was humiliated, afraid and suffering.

If the motive for the attack was just to frighten Meredith how and why did things go this far? If the motive was to sexually assault the victim why did she sustain injuries consistent with torture? Torturing the victim would have no logical role in either the ‘game’ or the ‘rape’ scenario and therefore we could conclude that the person wielding the knife gained some sort of enjoyment from the reaction of the victim to the injuries being inflicted.

Similarly it seems that the victim was overly and very forcibly restrained. It could be argued that the presence of the knife would have been sufficient to ensure ‘compliance’, Meredith bravely fought for her life and I believe the victim was informed of her imminent ‘fate’ resulting in a struggle and an increase in the level of violence to ensure she was at all times under the assailants control.

The evidence suggests that AK and RS were present when Meredith was sexually assaulted and it could be argued that it was the knowledge of this assault that resulted in the crime scene being staged to look like a rape in order to lead investigators to focus on the evidence they knew would implicate Guede. No DNA evidence has been found which suggests that AK and RS sexually assaulted Meredith but the evidence does suggest they watched. It is certainly possible that they gained some sort of twisted pleasure from watching Meredith suffer this terrible indignity.

After the murder
Following the discovery of the body AK and RS aroused the suspicion of the investigating officers and those close to Meredith by acting inappropriately. Testimony from several of Meredith’s English friends and others has indicated that Amanda and Raffaele displayed overtly sexualised behaviour in the police station following the discovery of the body. They allegedly kissed, cuddled, hugged, whispered and pulled faces at each other, at one point Amanda put her feet on Raffaele and sat on his lap. In the hours following the discovery of the body this behaviour indicates they were in some way aroused.

When one of Meredith’s English friends expressed the wish that Meredith didn’t suffer, Amanda allegedly informed her that Meredith had “f*****g bled to death” before being so kind as to inform the horrified girl that Meredith “would have died slowly and in a lot of pain.” I find it hard to believe that anyone could interpret this statement as anything other than callous and disgusting, given the information we have now and the evidence that suggests her own involvement it seems Amanda may have derived some sort of pleasure from the reaction to it. Amanda seemed excited at the police station and informed another of Meredith’s English friends that she could fill her in on any details she needed to know. Amanda seemed ‘proud of finding the body’ even though the officers later testified she hadn’t been able to see into the room.

The following day the couple were seen in the ‘Bubble’ lingerie store kissing, hugging, petting, laughing and seemingly having a whale of a time. Amanda bought a camisole top and a g-string, they discussed the ‘hot sex’ they were going to have once they got back to Raffaele’s apartment. The store owner clearly thought their conduct in the store that day was suspicious enough to alert the police who catalogued it alongside the mounting circumstantial evidence of inappropriate behaviour.

Two days after the murder Amanda sent an email to 23 of her family and friends making crude references to the blood in the bathroom possibly being from ‘menstrual issues’ Meredith was having, she also discussed how the police had asked her if Meredith liked anal sex and if she ever used Vaseline. I find it hard to believe that these are reasonable things to write under any circumstance and certainly not considering the subject of the email, they are deeply personal and it could be argued that Amanda enjoyed the further indignity to Meredith by sharing it with her friends and family as if it was meaningless gossip.

This callous and sexualised post crime behaviour must have seen particularly chilling when more evidence came to light and the two were arrested.

Sexually Deviant Fantasies?

Amanda’s short story ‘Baby Brother’ contains references to a rapist. She also wrote to a former boyfriend discussing how she wanted to watch and put some porn ‘into practice’ with him. Though the sex with a stranger on a train and the presence of the vibrator in the bathroom seems like ‘nothing’ it does help to paint the picture of a sexually vivacious young woman who quickly began a very intense relationship with a quiet and possibly disturbed young man.

Similarly Raffaele does not appear to be out of the ordinary with regard to his sexual tastes, he was a virgin when he met Amanda who enjoyed violent manga, watched some extreme pornography (what young man hasn’t?) and collected knives, this could have led to some deviant sexual fantasies but as the literature indicates these are perfectly normal for both men and women.

It does seem that AK and RS became sexually obsessed with each other very quickly and upon meeting Amanda allegedly spent virtually every night with him. Though it is not clear what the motive for the attack on Meredith was, it could be suggested that humiliation or a desire to control and inflict suffering was conscious or unconscious factor. They could have shared sexual fantasies or brought out something in each other that they had not acted on previously, had not anticipated or thought they could control.

If this is the case and one or both of the defendants were acting upon dormant sexually deviant fantasies that night it could help to explain the humiliation and suffering Meredith endured and the strange sexualised post crime behaviour that disturbed so many.

The murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher is amongst the most sadistically executed crimes I have ever come across. Despite loud protests from the defendants supporters who, by criticising the investigation and judicial process, seek to nullify the evidence put forward so far, this crime is and will remain a fascinating example of group violence.

Psychologists have been studying the behaviour of groups for decades and this has not been without its fair share of criticism. Early studies from eminent psychologists like Prof Philip Zimbardo have cemented ethical restrictions and guidelines on psychology research in the hope that any mistakes made by psychologists in the past will not be replicated at the expense of willing participants in the future. Unfortunately, a lot of current social, clinical and forensic psychology research on, particularly group behaviour, is based in part on instances of group violence where the ‘participant’ was anything other than willing.

When I first started reading about this case, even before I’d come across TJMK, PMF or Perugia Shock, before I knew anything concrete about the defendants post crime behaviour or had access to information that has now confirmed my suspicion, I remember my immediate thought being: more than one person was involved in this. I am and have always been of the opinion that this crime makes absolutely no sense as a single perpetrator offence; indeed one of the things that stumped me from the beginning was the lack of evidence of any kind of history of violence in any of the accused, this is in part explained by the evidence of a group dynamic which could have contributed to the level of violence in the house that night.

If we exclude the involvement of the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, the likelihood of seeing this level of violence as a first offence, especially coupled with the suggestion that Rudy Guede was originally there to steal, would all but evaporate.

Concerning Rudy Guede as a lone wolf killer

As I discussed in a previous post, the murder of Meredith Kercher can be classified as a sex related homicide. I spend a great deal of time reading literature relevant to these sorts of cases in order that I can better understand the types of people that commit violent sexual homicides and their reasons for doing so. According to a research article published in the American Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 82% of those who commit violent sexual homicides have a history of violent offences; many of them have already served time for sexual assault, GBH, armed robbery etc.

Guede had no history of violence in fact he had no record at all, not even for drug dealing as was previously thought. According to the same research article, murders committed by offenders with no history of violent behaviour are usually crimes of passion or the result of a mis/undiagnosed mental health problem. Guede did not know Meredith; Guede had no reason to go to the cottage alone, he was not in a relationship with her, in fact the two probably never even spoke and if they did the conversation probably wouldn’t have lasted more than ten seconds. Crime of passion? I think not.

Likewise with mental illness, the sorts of mental health problems that can lead to these kinds of spontaneous violent offences are often serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia and other delusional disorders; they are often debilitating and require ongoing medical treatment and assessment. Guede had friends and acquaintances and what appeared to be a fairly active social life in Perugia, if he had been delusional or ‘hearing voices’ I’m fairly sure it would have been noted by now and the defence teams for Amanda and Raffaele would have picked up on it in an instant. Similarly, if Guede had any kind of serious or debilitating mental health condition it would almost certainly have been a factor in the sentencing report and his competency to stand trial would have been called into question. This was not the case and the evidence available so far indicates that Guede was competent to stand trial and therefore it can be assumed he is able to understand right and wrong and with it, the implications of his actions that night. I see no evidence to suggest he is mentally ill.

Balance of probability

Though it is not completely unheard of for an individual with no history of violent behaviour to commit violent sexual homicide, these cases are nearly always crimes of passion or result from the actions of a person with serious untreated mental health problems, this is well supported by research in internationally renowned journals on forensic psychology and psychiatry.

Those who support the FOA and criticise the investigation are welcome to do so but continuing to assert supreme confidence in the lone wolf theory attempts to challenge pretty much every single piece of forensic literature on violent offenders there is. This has not been an easy task, which is why, rather than discussing case scenarios on these blogs, those who have ‘burdened’ themselves with the enormous task of challenging every bit of evidence against Amanda and Raffaele with the unparalleled arrogance and blatant assumption that: “everyone else is wrong  or lying and we are right, evidence doesn’t matter or doesn’t exist because we don’t want it to or because we don’t have an explanation for it, therefore it’s wrong, wrong, wrong and so are you!”

Oddly enough this strategy isn’t doing the defendants any favours, it might work online but it won’t work in the place that really matters: court. This is why these blogs have been confined to discussing the specific wording of the text message written by Amanda Knox to Patrick Lumumba on the night of the 1st of November 2007, which, despite being ever so slightly case relevant, does not change or alter the FACT that Amanda Knox falsely implicated Patrick Lumumba in the murder of Meredith Kercher for which he subsequently spent two weeks in jail and is now suing her for slander. Neither does endlessly discussing whether or not Amanda Knox was hit on the back of the head change or alter the FACT that there is DNA evidence linking her and Raffaele Sollecito to the crime scene, this is why both are on trial to determine their individual level of involvement in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

The lone wolf theory can be disbanded simply with a balance of probability. What are the chances of Rudy Guede, a young man with no history of violence, no criminal record and no recorded drug problem deciding to randomly go to the house of a girl he barely knew (or did not know at all) in order to sexually assault and kill her? What are the chances of him scaling a wall in order to break into the apartment when other points of entry would have been easier? What are the chances of him selecting that house to burgle if this was his primary motivation? What are the chances of him, independently and without consultation from the defendants or anyone else with access to this type of knowledge, knowing that Meredith Kercher would be home alone on the night of the 1st November 2007?

Then compare that with the chances of two young people being involved, both of whom knew Meredith. Amanda knew her well and lived with her. Amanda also had a key to the cottage that night and knew Meredith would be home alone. Amanda may have had a problem with anger and possibly projected this onto Meredith; she may have even hated her and there was tension between them. Then add to the equation Raffaele, a rich, spoiled kid with a major drug problem, an extensive knife collection and a penchant for violent Japanese manga comics. He lived just around the corner from Guede and could have known him or met him briefly, Amanda knew Rudy through the boys in the downstairs apartment. Even if we ignore the DNA evidence, the injuries sustained by the victim, the staging and the clean-up, the involvement of these two in addition to Guede makes a lot more sense and on a balance of probability is far more credible than any kind of lone wolf killer. Plus, the police investigating the murder had cottoned on to the odd behaviour of Amanda and Raffaele before they arrested or suspected anyone else’s involvement.

This circumstantial evidence, coupled with reliable DNA evidence which includes Raffaele’s DNA on a bra strap in a room he supposedly never entered, a knife found at Raffaele’s house, a place Meredith had never been, with Amanda’s DNA on the handle and the victims on the tip, coupled with the lies and the defendants complete lack of an alibi for their actions and whereabouts on the night of the murder really doesn’t bode well at all. How the three ended up in the room is interesting but essentially incidental, DNA evidence places all three at the scene.

Group Theory

At this point you may be wondering how Rudy’s lack of violent history is seemingly more important than Amanda and Raffaele’s, indeed you would be correct in the assumption that they are all just as unlikely candidates for a lone wolf killer as each other, but the point is, neither of them were lone wolf killers, there were in effect all part of a ‘gang’ and as such, their actions and behaviour would have been decidedly different.

There have only ever really been a handful of theories about who was present that night and the only one that suggests the crime was committed by Guede alone has already been discredited, even by Guede himself who is now claiming (whether we believe him or not) that he was not the only person in the house with Meredith that night. Guede was indisputably present in the cottage but has now claimed in his recent appeal that he was on the toilet at the time of the fatal knife wound resulting from an attack which began as the result of a row between Amanda and Meredith over stolen rent money.  At this point in time and with the evidence available so far, it is pretty clear that Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede were all present in the house that night and all took part in the sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher. This in itself suggests a gang attack which, according to current theory on group violence could explain how three people with no history of violence could attack and kill a young woman in such a brutal way and then refuse to say a single word to implicate the other during the investigation, probably in order to ensure that in keeping this pact of silence they would not implicate themselves.

Evidence suggesting group attack/behaviour and ‘team work’

Crime Reconstruction

The evidence available so far indicates that Meredith was attacked by three people. She had 47 separate injuries on her body when she died; some were consistent with being forcibly held by her arms, whilst someone taunted her with the blade of a knife. Reconstruction of the attack places Guede behind Meredith sexually assaulting her, Raffaele to the side restraining her and Amanda facing the victim with the knife. Guede’s DNA found inside the victim, bruises on the victims arms and the DNA found on the knife supports this reconstruction. The reconstruction of the crime scene implies each individual had a ‘role’ in the attack which is indicative of a group/pack mentality.

Clean up and staging
The evidence suggests that the crime scene was staged; to suggest a burglary and a rape had taken place. Amanda and Raffaele have been charged with altering a crime scene. Rudy Guede was seen in town by a number of witnesses whilst the staging and extensive cleanup of the cottage was taking place. The clean up was good, but not good enough, DNA evidence implicating both defendants has been found. The clean up and staging suggests an element of team work. Similarly, the evidence suggests that Amanda and Raffaele cleaned up their own involvement which also implies they were willing to ‘frame’ Rudy as a sole perpetrator, which could also tell us something about the dynamic of the group and the perceived ‘importance’ of each individual within the ‘hierarchy’ of the group.

Silence pact
It appears that a silence pact is in place,  like a ‘what happened in the cottage stays in the cottage’ pact, it appears there is some sort of agreement between Amanda and Raffaele, either to avoid implicating themselves or some kind of joint solidarity. I find it interesting that Amanda voluntarily chose to go to the police station with Raffaele without needing to do so. Their behaviour following the discovery of the body was almost mirrored. Their continued behaviour reminds me of a pact, as does their refusal to speak about Guede.

Impact of group dynamic and implications for our understanding of the crime

Research has indicated that people fall into specific ‘roles’ within groups and are used to fulfilling different roles which are dependent on specific sets of circumstances and social surroundings. Some people are leaders and therefore more dominant, others prefer to blend into the background or provide support to the more dominant members of the ‘pack’.

Hierarchy is extremely important, without it society would struggle and groups would lack purpose and direction. Humans crave hierarchy; this is why we naturally assume different roles. Some naturally take charge and some naturally follow. This is true of all groups.

In any group you usually have a ‘leader’, this person is in charge of making decisions and suggestions and will look to members of the group for advice and support. Leaders are usually more dominant, more loud, more sociable and more outgoing in general. Followers are less dominant and tend to be more introverted.

Group violence and current theory

Research into group violence has indicated that violent attacks on one individual by two or more members of a ‘pack’ are much more brutal, especially in cases when the attack results in the death of the targeted victim. Attacks committed by two or more individuals on one targeted victim are significantly more likely to result in the victim’s death.

One theory which attempts to explain this is the idea of deindividuation and diffusion of responsibility.   According to Zimbardo, deindividuation is the tendency of people within groups to lose their individual identities and become anonymous members of the group, closely linked to this idea is diffusion of responsibility, which outlines the idea that an individual within a group can ‘diffuse’ their own personal level of responsibility onto that of the group, in order to avoid taking personal responsibility for actions which they perceive are the result of the group as a whole. Their actions, like with deindividuation, become that of the group and as such the line between right and wrong can become severely blurred. This process helps to explain why in most instances of group attacks resulting in the death of the victim, the attack itself is often prolonged, sadistic and extremely violent, even if the victim did very little to provoke the attack in the first place.

The murder of Meredith Kercher

The murder of Meredith Kercher is a classic example of group violence and group dynamics within violence. The evidence suggesting that the victim was held, sexually assaulted and taunted with the knife before being killed indicates a group dynamic. Each individual had their own role in the killing and in all likelihood ‘fell into’ the role as a natural extension of their own personality types. Amanda as a person is more dominant than the other two; she is more loud, more adventurous, sociable and competitive, she would in all likelihood have been the ‘leader’ of the group, the ‘puppet master’ if you like. She is at the centre of it all, as such the DNA evidence placing her in the role of knife wielder makes sense, especially with her physical build and make up. It would not make sense in terms of group dynamic and utilisation of group ‘skills’ and ‘attributes’ to have Amanda attempting to restrain Meredith, the men naturally fell into this ‘role’ knowing that they would be able to hold Meredith still. Rudy fell into his ‘role’ as the instigator of the sexual assault and appears to be the weakest ‘member’ of the group, evident by Amanda and Raffaele’s lack of loyalty and their willingness to implicate him for a crime in which they also had an active role. Add to this the theory which suggests that in instances of group violence, a certain amount of deindividuation and diffusion of responsibility leads to an increase in violence, this could explain how three people with no history of violence have either been convicted or are currently on trial for the brutal and sadistic sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher.

Of course we will probably never know exactly what happened to Meredith, but current theory about group dynamics in these sorts of violent attack can go a long way to explaining what happened, even when the persons responsible refuse to say a word.

With the recent appeal against the conviction and resulting 30 year sentence handed down to Rudy Guede by judge Micheli for his part in the sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher, it seems fitting to discuss another possible motive for the murder, theft.

In his appeal, lawyers for Guede claim their client was on the toilet when the fatal knife wound was administered by, he professes the defendant Amanda Knox in an apparent row over stolen rent money. Guede claims he attempted to help Meredith by using a towel to apply pressure to her wounds, but instead of calling an ambulance, he became frightened and ran away. Aside from confirming the obvious cowardice or lack of consideration for seeking immediate medical attention for the victim he claims he so chivalrously tried to ‘help’, Guede sheds no further light on what happened that night but instead attempts to point the finger of blame at the defendant Amanda Knox, perhaps in the wake of a recent drop in public opinion and support in favour of her innocence.

This is the third part in a series of posts concerned with examining possible motives for the murder of Meredith Kercher. These posts are a collection of ideas and theories based in part from my own reflections on this case and from ideas and scenarios that have been put forward by others. In the previous post I outlined some current theories on classification of violence and, though this post was quite theoretical in nature I hope I was successful in demonstrating that the confusion in typology of violence may suggest that there was in all likelihood a number of individual motives for what happened that night.

Classification of violence is an important factor to consider when attempting to understand the individual dynamic of this hugely complex and many layered crime, the attack on Meredith was extremely violent and sadistic and as such can be classified as a sex related homicide which, according to current classification, fits into a rape/sodomy motivation category and though the evidence so far supports the idea, it is also important to consider the evidence that suggests a further motive, theft.

Evidence to support the idea that a theft took place

There is no denying that a theft took place as some of Meredith’s personal possessions were, and to this day remain missing. The evidence for theft:

Cash machine records show that Meredith had withdrawn approx €300 to pay for her rent which was due at the start of the month but the landlord never received the money; neither did Filomena who sub-letted rooms to both Amanda and Meredith. Two debit/credit cards were missing from Meredith’s purse, one from Abbey National and the other from Nationwide, these have not been located. Two cell/mobile phones were taken from Meredith and tossed in the nearby garden of Elisabetta Lana; it was the discovery of one phone and shortly after, the other that led to the dispatch of the postal police who later discovered Meredith’s body.

With the above points in mind we can conclude that a theft of some kind did take place. However, we cannot conclude that this was the motive for the murder, nor can we necessarily say that the initial motivation of the perpetrator was burglary.

The Burglary

Evidence put forward so far indicates that the crime scene was staged to make it appear to police as if a burglary had been the motive for the presence of the perpetrator/s in the house that night. The burglary theory is not credible for a number of reasons:

Firstly, Filomena’s window, the supposed route of entry was significantly higher off the ground than other more easily accessible points of entry into the house. Entry from other points would have been significantly easier and less visible to potential witnesses; in fact some have even gone as far as suggesting that entry through this window would be impossible. Similarly, fragments of glass found on top of piles of scattered clothes indicates that the window was broken from the inside with a large rock that was found on the floor of Filomena’s bedroom.  Secondly, valuable items such as laptops, Meredith’s iPod as well as valuable jewellery, designer handbags and sunglasses belonging to Filomena were not taken from the house. As I discussed in a previous post the primary motivation of a burglary is to grab as much valuable stuff as quickly and easily as possible and without being caught.

Concerning the specific items taken from Meredith – Cash and cards
One thing I find pertiularly odd is the choice of items taken from Meredith, especially the cash and cards. People do not normally keep that kind of money just lying around the house, as such I doubt many burglars expect to find or even go looking for cash. If I was a burglar who found €300 lying about in a drawer as I was tossing a place I‘d probably think ‘bonus’ and carry on looting. Same with the debit cards, why would a burglar take these incredibly personal items which, not only are useless without the pin numbers but are easily traceable and totally unique to the victim? If found, there would be no denying that they had come from the cottage and seeing as they have no monetary value and these days you can’t even use them online without special passwords for security, it seems totally illogical that any ‘genuine’ burglar would take them, especially when you consider that the house contained a wealth of small, valuable and less traceable items such as jewellery an iPod and designer sunglasses, these items would be easy to carry and probably easy to sell. The fact that cash and cards were taken from Meredith implies that the person/s responsible wanted a) to lead the investigators in the belief that robbery was the motive and/or b) needed immediate access to cash, I firmly believe that due to the timing i.e. beginning of the month (rent time), whoever took the cash, already knew it was in the house and where to find it. This in itself discounts a lone wolf like Guede, who would not have had access to this information or known where to look for the cash. Seeing as Guede’s Facebook photos show him posing with a famous fashion designer, I can imagine he’d know the value of the designer handbags and sunglasses and, were he actually a lone burglar he may have taken those as well as the iPod which he’s already ‘confessed’ to being a fan of. It is also fairly reasonable to assume that Meredith and Amanda may have spoken about the rent money as they both would have owed the same amount to Filomena, is it too much of a stretch to imagine that Meredith may have mentioned she had withdrawn the money and was going to pay Filomena when she returned after the holiday weekend?

Concerning the specific items taken from Meredith – Cell/mobile phones
In a similar way to the cash/cards, a burglar would probably not be looking for cell/mobile phones when stealing from a property. If we consider the cost/benefit model, the primary motivation of burglary is to steal valuables to sell (benefit) whilst weighing up the likelihood of being caught (cost), as such a burglar would not choose to steal from a house that did not appear empty, hence the products you can buy to simulate lights coming on and off etc that give the impression someone is home. Cell/mobile phones are meant to be carried around in bags/pockets and as such, a burglar breaking into an empty property would not be expecting to find items that the owner of the property would be carrying around with them elsewhere. I’m not suggesting that a burglar would not steal these items if they were discovered, just that the likelihood of a potential burglar expecting to find them is low, as such the type of items stolen from Meredith is suspicious as they are all personal items that she would have been carrying around whilst the burglar was rummaging around looking for items to sell. With regard to the phones, a far more sinister likelihood, supported by the confession from Rudy Guede that he did not attempt to seek medical help for Meredith upon realising the severity of her injuries (and therefore we can assume he had a reason for not wanting her to recover and identify him), is that the perpetrator/s prevented Meredith from seeking medical attention by removing from her the only method with which to do so, her cell/mobile phones. Upon realising they would be easily traceable (just look at the apparent phone paranoia with the joint switch off at 8.40pm) the perpetrator/s decided the best place for the phones was in the garden of a nearby neighbour where they could not be traced to the perpetrator/s individual location. If we consider a lone burglar, with no prior relationship to the victim, the discarding of the phones makes absolutely no sense. If you were a burglar, why would you throw away half of the stuff you had just ‘worked so hard’ to steal?, that would be like flushing half of your wages for the night down the toilet. This could further imply that the person who took the phones knew Meredith personally and did not want it to be traced back to them especially if they knew the police would soon be poking around for information about who had killed her, it may also be possible that whoever took the phones intended to keep them, maybe someone without a phone (Guede) but ‘bailed out’, realising that they would be extremely incriminating if found.

All in all, the fact that only Meredith’s possessions were taken (and personal ones at that) is highly suspicious, add that to the evidence suggesting the burglary was staged and we have ourselves one very shady motive indeed.

Aggravated burglary and burglary related homicide

Incidents of aggravated burglary i.e. where the offender carries a weapon are rare, even rarer are the occasions where the burglar will actually employ the weapon. As burglary by its very nature is motivated by the desire to steal valuables whilst the owner is absent, the motivation to seriously harm the owner of the property is usually non-existent. Incidences of violent burglars are reported but usually they only strike out in self defence especially if violently confronted in retaliation for the break-in. Even rarer are incidents of burglary related homicide with the owner as the victim, more often than not if a death occurs as a result of a burglary its usually the burglar and not the owner that is killed. Burglary is generally considered to be a non violent crime and though very distressing to those whose personal possessions have been taken it very rarely culminates in such extreme violence and in these cases, the burglar is nearly always provoked.

Though incidents where burglars lash out when confronted do happen, it’s usually only when they feel threatened. Meredith’s friends have suggested she was cautious, like plenty of young women who study in a foreign country and would not have opened the door to strangers at night, therefore the likelihood of her actually meeting and confronting a burglar with a weapon, the propensity for violence and provoking a violent attack, rather than just making a run for the door or hiding under the bed are very slim. In short, Meredith would have been unlikely to have confronted a burglar and even if it had been Guede rummaging around the house alone she would have screamed or probably made a run for it.

Something in the house put her ‘at ease’ before the attack, somebody familiar was there that night.

The injuries Meredith sustained were consistent with a very violent sexual assault, being forcibly restrained, taunted with a knife and eventually stabbed in the neck. Despite the fact that the murder of Meredith Kercher appears to be a sex related homicide, even if we consider that robbery could have been a the motive, the nature of the attack and the level of violence is not consistent with research or theory about classification of violence in these sorts of offences, neither were the injuries caused by one person.

Implications for our understanding of the motive

The evidence put forward so far seems to suggest that burglary was not a primary motive for the murder of Meredith Kercher, but theft could still be considered. Amanda and Raffaele have been charged with the theft (amongst a list of other things) of Meredith’s personal possessions but asserting that the acquisition of these items was motive enough to kill? I’m not so sure.

DNA evidence has convicted Rudy Guede and implicated Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, we could therefore suggest that the evidence supporting the presence of all three negates the need for the ‘break-in’ through the window, why then did they stage the crime scene to insinuate a robbery had taken place? Amanda had a key and according to judge Micheli, most likely let Rudy in through the front door. What I struggle to understand is why Amanda would even need to involve Guede if she and Raffaele were just planning on stealing Meredith’s money. In the email Amanda sent to her friends and family 2 days after the murder she mentions in great detail what Meredith was doing the ‘last time she saw her alive’, despite the idea that it appears the couple were watching Meredith that afternoon it also seems to suggest that for a number of hours Amanda and Raffaele were alone in the house as Meredith had gone to her friend’s house, was it possible that they stole the money from Meredith then and spent the afternoon getting baked at Meredith’s expense? As Rudy’s recent appeal (if we believe what he has to say) suggests that Amanda and Meredith argued about stolen money and says nothing about him actually seeing her take the money,  it could be suggested that the money may have been taken in the afternoon after Meredith had left for her friend’s house.

It is feasible that Amanda, Rudy and Raffaele were at the cottage to buy/sell/do drugs that afternoon and upon returning home, Meredith became angry when she found her rent money missing and guessed what it may have been spent on. It does seem unlikely that this level of violence would be used in these circumstances though it is consistent with diffusion of responsibility and as I discussed in my previous post, fits with a classification of hostile violence.

Why would they need the money?

Amanda and Raffaele, alongside murder and other charges related to the incident, have also been charged with stealing Meredith’s money/cards/phones. Despite this, some people have rejected the idea that they are capable or would want to steal as they have been painted as fairly wealthy kids, despite the fact that even rich people steal (Winona Ryder is a good example); the following ideas may shed some light:

Amanda
The FOA have suggested that Amanda would have no motive to steal as she had over $4000 in the bank at the time of the murder. Though this seems like a large amount of money it may well have been all she had in the world. The FOA like to tell everyone that Amanda had to work several jobs to save up and pay for her trip to Perugia, which, though shows dedication and hard work, also indicates that Amanda’s parents didn’t really have the sort of money that would allow her a jet-set lifestyle half way across the world and in any case they may have helped out a bit but wanted her to learn her first big lesson about money by saving up for it herself. It has been reported that Amanda was middle-class and not particularly rich. In any case, just because her parents have practically bankrupted themselves fighting these accusations and orchestrating a PR campaign doesn’t mean they had/have money to burn, every parent wants their child to go out into the world and do things their own way and it sounds like this was the lesson Amanda was learning (why else would she have needed to work several jobs). $4000, though it sounds like a lot of money is actually very little when living abroad. $4000 currently equates to just over €3000, if we take the exchange rate at the time as being slightly better, Amanda paying roughly €300 rent a month, would probably have just covered the years rent with her savings. Why do you think she had to get a job at Le Chic paying roughly €50 a week plus tips? When we factor in food, flights home for Christmas, alcohol and the (seemingly) copious amounts of weed she smoked it seems reasonable that Amanda could have been running short of money. Amanda had just lost her bar job at Le Chic and been ‘relegated’ to handing out flyers instead, with this potential source of income drying up I can imagine Amanda was concerned about her finances, especially if she owed/needed money for drugs. It is also interesting that Amanda was carrying €215 in cash when she was arrested, it would be interesting to know if bank statements showed Amanda had withdrawn this money on the day of the murder or the subsequent day and if she had withdrawn €300 to pay her rent, or stolen this amount from Meredith, where the extra €85 had been spent.

Raffaele
Raffaele reportedly had just €40 in his bank account when Meredith was killed and seeing as how his father was a rich doctor who provided him with a nice apartment, car and probably kept him financially sound while he studied it seems odd that he would be this broke.

Some ideas and conclusions

Though the evidence suggests that theft may have played a role in what happened that night, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that theft was the primary motive for the attack on Meredith, it is however clear that the burglary was staged. It is possible that the violent attack came about as a result of a confrontation over the missing money, which is consistent with a possible classification of hostile violence.

I am however, still attempting to understand, if this was just about money, where Rudy Guede fits in as he was not charged with theft. Also where does the evidence that the murder may have been premeditated fit in with this theory? Why were the phones switched off at the same time? Why did they take the knife? What the hell was planned?

The fact that extremely personal and traceable items belonging to Meredith were taken is highly suspicious, as is the evidence suggesting that the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were short of cash at this time, Rudy’s ‘confession’ that Amanda killed Meredith, like most of his stories is probably fantasy but with some basis in truth.

Even with this mind, it still seems implausible that something this depraved and violent could result from the theft of just €300.

This is the second part of a series of posts concerned with examining possible motives for the murder of Meredith Kercher. These posts are a collection of ideas and theories based in part from my own reflections on this case and from ideas and scenarios that have been put forward by others.

In the previous post I outlined some current theories on classification of sexual homicide. I believe the murder of Meredith Kercher can be classified as a sexual homicide due to the level of violence, evidence of sexual assault and the way the body was found. One of the motives for committing a violent sexual assault and murder is the intention of humiliating or dominating the victim though the motives for this aren’t always clear.

I have recently begun to examine the possibility that the attack was premeditated as the evidence put forward to far seems to suggest this as a possibility. This is a very complex and intriguing case for many reasons and though a lot of evidence has been released into the public domain it could be argued that, due to the lack of cooperation from the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito and the only convicted member of the group so far, Rudy Guede, we are no closer to understanding the motive for the violent and depraved attack on Meredith which culminated in her tragic death.

Rationale for examining the motive:

It could be argued that examining possible motives at this stage and without the complicity of the defendants is speculating ahead of the evidence, however, as the evidence indicates that both Amanda Knox and Raffaele were present that night it seems logical to attempt to understand the possible motive for the murder of Meredith Kercher and where they fit in.

I have in certain places been heavily criticised for openly expressing my own personal perceptions about the defendant’s guilt or innocence as there are many people following this case that still believe Rudy Guede was a lone wolf killer, the evidence however, speaks for itself and I for one am not afraid to state that I believe Judge Micheli had more than enough evidence put in front of him to send both defendants to trial for their part in the sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher. Because of this it seems necessary to understand the possible motive in order to put this massive body of evidence into some sort of context for the jury, if this results in a conviction or an acquittal, so be it.

As for my own personal views of guilt or innocence? What does it matter? I’m not on the jury

The sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher was extremely violent as such it may be possible to learn more about the motive by considering classifications of violence and how this individual crime fits with current theory.

Classifications of Violence

Hostile and Instrumental Motivation
Some theories have attempted to classify violence according to the underlying motivation of the aggressor; one of these theories makes a clear distinction between a hostile and an instrumental motivation. In incidences of hostile violence the primary motivation is to inflict harm or injury, this is often linked with emotions such as anger and fear.  In instances of instrumental violence the actions of the aggressor may cause harm but harm is not the primary motivation, these types of attack are usually motivated by other objectives, offenders’ committing instrumental acts of violence are usually acting to maximize their benefits (usually a financial reward) and minimize the potential costs of their actions (getting caught), as such the level of violence is usually much lower.

Cornell et al (1996) conducted a study called ‘Psychopathy of instrumental and reactive violent offenders’ the coding guidelines used in this study have been published and identify several important factors to consider when attempting to classify an act of violence as hostile or instrumental:

Planning – degree of premeditation or preparation for aggression
–  Goal-directedness – degree to which aggression is motivated by some external gain
–  Provocation – degree of provocation, frustration or threat from victim
–  Arousal - degree of anger experienced by aggressor
–  Severity of violence – degree of injury to victim
–  Relationship to victim – closeness of relationship between victim and aggressor
–  Intoxication – intoxication on drugs or alcohol during incident
–  Psychosis – presence of psychotic symptoms during incident

Instrumental Violence
According to the researchers, planning and goal directedness are key characteristics of instrumental violence.  They also state that instrumental violence usually involves little or no provocation from the victim of the attack. These types of aggressor are motivated by goals and not emotions. They also make the following assertion:

“Sadistic aggression is a special form of instrumental aggression in which the objective is some form of pleasure (e.g., power or sexual gratification) that stems from the infliction of pain or attainment of dominance over the other person. Instrumental aggression is initiated as a means to an end rather than as an act of retaliation or self-defence.”

The researchers noted a correlation between the presence of certain characteristics of instrumental violence and level of intoxication of the aggressor, they suggested that offenders who plan to commit a crime to achieve a specific objective, especially robbery or rape may consume alcohol or drugs to make the process easier to cope with, level of emotional arousal during the attack is often low as the violence is secondary to the primary motivation.

Hostile Violence
According to the researchers, reaction to provocation and arousal are key elements of hostile violence. Hostile violence is usually the result of provocation or interpersonal conflict such as an argument or disagreement, therefore victims of hostile violence often know the aggressor. Level of violence is often high.

The researchers outline that timeframe is important when considering hostile violence. An aggressor can take a long time to act on the perceived conflict (which arouses hostility) but the aggressor is always responding to an interpersonal conflict when committing hostile violence.

Implications for our understanding of the motive

One of the reasons this crime fascinates me is that is defies a lot of what I understand about these types of violent offences and current theory and classifications for them. This particular attack seems to fit into both categories quite well. We could consider that the evidence of premeditation and the possibility that the ‘goal’ of the attack was to humiliate or degrade Meredith, possibly to ‘teach her a lesson’, allows us to place this violent attack into the instrumental category but on the other hand the fact that the victim was known to the defendants and the attack was extremely violent could lead us to conclude that the murder was an act of hostile violence.

Possible scenarios and classification

Instrumental Violence?

Scenario one: They went to the cottage armed with a knife, with the sole intention of causing Meredith pain, suffering and humiliation, a sexual assault was the tool with which to achieve this objective, they may or may not have intended to kill her. They planned to implicate Guede and clean up their own involvement.

Scenario two: They went to the cottage to do drugs, they took the knife with them for cooking knowing the ones at the cottage were blunt, they intended to steal money from Meredith and reacted violently when confronted.

Scenario three: They planned a ‘practical joke’ to scare Meredith on Halloween but she was busy with her friends in town, they waited until the following night and went to the cottage with the intention of playing the ‘practical joke’, the level of violence escalated and it got totally out of hand. Drugs may or may not have been involved.

The above scenarios all seem to be a possibility at this stage (and there are many more). An important factor to consider if we are to conclude that the murder of Meredith Kercher was an example of instrumental violence is that the crime is suggestive of both instrumental and hostile violence as the victim was known to the defendants and to Amanda, very well. Also it has been suggested that Amanda and Meredith had grown apart over little household matters such as Amanda not flushing the toilet, leaving a vibrator in the bathroom and not cleaning up after herself. It has also been suggested that Amanda may have been intensely competitive and was jealous or angry with Meredith for being what she may have perceived as ‘little miss perfect’, if the violence that night was related to Amanda’s feelings about Meredith then the motivation for the attack would be hostile and not instrumental.

Some Ideas and Conclusions

No theory is without its limitations and this is no exception. So how can a violent crime be both instrumental and hostile? Surely it is one or the other? Well we must also consider the likelihood that three people were involved, three people who may have had different motivations for taking part in an attack on Meredith (pre meditated or not), this could provide insight into individual motivations and explain the dynamic of violence. Individual motivations could include:

Amanda – Anger, jealousy, rage, scorn, a desire to get even, ‘teach her a lesson’ or theft.

Raffaele – Curiosity, desire to protect and uphold the honour of his girlfriend, dislike of Meredith for perceived wrong-doing to Amanda, sexual urges, anger, rage or theft.

Rudy - Sexual frustration, excitement, anger, a desire to feel included and accepted or theft.

With this in mind, and especially if the act was premeditated it is possible to see how individual ideas and perceptions about Meredith, the plan and the events unfolding could lead to the confusion we have seen in the typology of violence.

On the one hand we have an initial attack and a sexual assault which seems to indicate an instrumental classification but on the other hand we have a very high level of violence culminating in a very violent death which is more typical of a hostile classification.

It could therefore be argued that the confusion about typology in this case is due to individual motivations and ideas about the events of that evening, this could be the result of the presence of three individuals with three different motivations for taking part.

I would like to take a few posts to consider possible scenarios concerning the motive for the murder of Meredith Kercher. In my previous post I discussed the possibility that the attack on Meredith was premeditated, though I am currently unsure of exactly what was planned or why. The evidence implicating Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is considerable but it only paints a part of the picture. Due to the wealth of information available, a great deal of interesting discussion on the possible motive has already taken place. As yet no definitive motive for the murder has been established.

Establishing the motive for a crime (especially a violent sexual homicide) can be difficult and though it is not essential for obtaining a guilty or not guilty verdict, understanding the motive for this type of violent crime can aid in the detection and apprehension of the perpetrator/s and, should charges be brought, help to put the crime in to some kind of perspective for a jury.

The body of Meredith Kercher was discovered on the floor of her bedroom on the 2nd November 2007, her throat had been cut. She was found concealed by a duvet; her underwear had been removed including her bra which appeared to have been cut or torn off this was found lying at her feet. Her top had been pulled up around her neck.

In the 106 page report by Judge Micheli he outlines the evidence that indicates Meredith was still wearing her bra when she was killed. Due to blood pattern analysis and imprints left at the crime scene and on the body the evidence supports the idea that Meredith led on one shoulder with her bra on but was later found on her back, her bra had been removed possibly to lead investigators to believe she had been raped. This is important because DNA found inside the victim implicates Rudy Guede who has already been sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in the murder. The evidence implies the rape was staged and also that an extensive cleanup operation took place to remove traces of the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, this cleanup operation did not remove all traces of their possible involvement however and plenty of evidence supporting Guede’s involvement was left at the scene for investigators to find. This could further imply that the motivation behind the clean-up was to lead investigators to focus on the sexual element of the attack, i.e. the sexual assault in the hope that Guede alone would be implicated. Whoever staged the rape was aware that a sexual assault had taken place. This has implicated Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

Rape or sexual assault is nearly always about power or domination, though individual fantasies do play a part, humiliation and domination of the victim is often the primary objective. There is no doubt that Meredith was humiliated and as the evidence indicates she was forcibly held a certain amount of domination could be suggested, but whether this was the motive for the attack cannot be established as a given. In some cases of violent sexual homicide (dependant upon the classification or type of offence), it can be hard to establish a motive at all but research and theory about these types of crime could shed light on the possible motive for what happened to Meredith that night.

Can the murder of Meredith Kercher be classified as a sex related homicide and what do we learn about the motive as a result?

The following pieces of evidence suggest that this could be classified as a sex related homicide:

The body of the victim was found partially clothed.
The victim was sexually assaulted.
Pre-mortem injuries consistent with being forcibly held or restrained.
Particularly violent death.

Now that this has been suggested as a possible scenario, current research and theory on sexual homicide may shed some light on the type of attack and maybe possible motive for the murder of Meredith Kercher:

Theory and Categorisation of Sex Related Homicide
There are several theories about motive in sexual homicide cases. One of the more reductionist theories suggests there are just two types of sexual homicide: the ‘sadistic, or lust murderer’ and ‘rape or displaced anger murderer’, however further sexual homicide theory suggests there may be more. Vernon J Geberth is a veteran police investigator, widely respected for his in depth analysis and understanding of crime scene investigation (and his book ‘Practical Homicide Investigation’), he believes that sex related homicides fall into four distinct categories: ‘Interpersonal violence oriented disputes and assaults’, ‘Rape and/or sodomy oriented assault’, ‘deviant oriented assault commonly referred to as a lust murder or psychotic killing’ and ‘the serial murder’. These have been listed in statistical likelihood of occurrence.

Geberth believes that the most common cause of sex related homicides is: interpersonal violence this has been defined by the Violence Prevention Alliance as:

“Violence between individuals, and is subdivided into family and intimate partner violence and community violence. The former category includes child maltreatment; intimate partner violence; and elder abuse, while the latter is broken down into acquaintance and stranger violence and includes youth violence; assault by strangers; violence related to property crimes; and violence in workplaces and other institutions.”

Geberth suggests that the motive in this category is primarily anger, rage, hate, jealousy or revenge.

There is also a collective category which refers to violence committed by larger groups of people and though I have suggested that diffusion of responsibility and the gang or pack mentality could have resulted in the death of Meredith Kercher, it could be suggested that three is not a large enough group for this offence to fall into the collective category. The evidence suggests that the defendants may have had an individual role that night which leads me to believe: The attack on Meredith Kercher falls into the category of interpersonal violence.

Though there is strong evidence to suggest that there was some kind of sexual element to the crime, what makes this crime interesting and unique is that it does not absolutely fit into any particular category, some are not applicable, but one fits rather well:

Which category is the murder of Meredith Kercher likely to fall into?
In cases of violent sexual homicide where evidence that the victim has been forcibly held, sexually assaulted and the death was particularly violent (as in this case) investigators like Geberth will often conclude a rape and/or sodomy motivation. These types of sexual homicide are quite rare but are nearly always brutal and often very depraved. Psychological theory indicates that the attacker/s will often attempt to humiliate the victim and injuries are often consistent with manual strangulation, knife wounds to the neck, abdomen and genital areas. Often with killings in this category, injuries are consistent with what’s known as ‘over-kill’ i.e. the amount of force and violence used was more than is necessary to debilitate or kill the victim, this is particularly evident when considering violent crime that has been committed by those with a psychopathic personality disorder. Psychopaths are hard to stimulate and as such, investigators are more likely to see ‘over-kill’ when investigating violent crimes committed by this demographic population. Injuries are often consistent with a forcible attempt to prevent or stop the victim screaming this can lead to strangulation, asphyxiation or knife wounds to the throat or neck. Evidence of sexual assault or rape is nearly always present.

If we take the idea that the motive for the attack was to humiliate or dominate Meredith we can also argue that a rape scenario was likely as this is usually the motivation behind these attacks as well as establishing power or control over a victim that the perpetrator/s may feel they lack in other elements of their life. Though it has not been confirmed that the victim was raped she was sexually assaulted and therefore humiliated, the nature of the wounds indicates a very violent attack that is consistent with the above scenario.

Though I spent the last post discussing the idea that the attack was pre-meditated, these types of attack can be either pre-meditated or spontaneous. In these types of attack, dependent upon individual circumstances the victim may be intentionally or accidentally killed. If the victim is killed it may be because they screamed, struggled, attempted to escape or could identify the attacker.

Rape and Sexual Assault
Rape and sexual assault is nearly always about power, domination, reassurance or humiliation, it’s not about sex. Whoever did this to Meredith wanted to control her, make her submissive, humiliate, punish, degrade and frighten her. The nature of the attack is extremely brutal and depraved, though this could be explained by the presence of all three who may, to a certain extent have ‘egged’ each other on, there was almost certainly a dominant person in the room, this person was likely to be the one who inflicted the fatal knife wound. Furthermore, evidence of taunting in the form of minor cuts around the throat and defensive knife wounds on the victim’s hands, whilst the victim was forcibly restrained implies that the person wielding the knife may have sadistic tendencies. Remember that this was a first offence:  Because of the nature of the wounds and the lack of evidence of previous violent behaviour or deviance, whoever inflicted the injuries on Meredith Kercher is violent, extremely dangerous and likely to reoffend.

DNA evidence on the suspected murder weapon has implicated Amanda Knox

What does this tell us about the possible motive for the murder?


The idea that the murder fits into a rape/sodomy sexual homicide category supports the idea that the murder of Meredith Kercher could have been predominantly about power, humiliation, degradation and domination. Why the defendants would want to do this will probably remain a mystery but theory indicates that the types of people who commit these offences may do so for all sorts of reasons, they may be angry, feel scorned and want revenge they may even be jealous.

Research about these types of crimes has suggested that the perpetrator/s often feels like they have lost some sort of control in their own lives which may result in anger, because of this, a desire for power reassurance may give way to some violent sexual or sadistic fantasies that may or may not manifest themselves in a desire to punish or degrade a victim.

But women don’t take part in/organise rape or sexual assault, do they?

Contrary to popular belief, women do take part in sexual assault and rape. Look at Karla Homolka, the pretty Canadian who married serial murderer and rapist Paul Bernardo. Karla was asked by her husband what she would think if he told her he was a rapist, she replied she thought it would be ‘cool’ she assisted him in the rape and murder of several young women. Similarly, 18 year old Claire Marsh was jailed in 2001 for taking part in a sadistic gang rape of a women by a canal, in Singapore, a 16 year old girl plotted the rape of a 13 year old ‘rival’ as revenge for being belittled and a 22 year old had her friend brutally raped as punishment for stealing her boyfriend, similarly a 19 year old had her friend gang raped for sleeping with her boyfriend. With this in mind it could be feasible that Amanda took part in or organised a sexual assault to humiliate, punish or frighten Meredith, this could be for any number of reasons, maybe she was jealous or felt scorned by her in some way, maybe she was high and acted on impulse. Maybe it was a fantasy of Raffaele’s and she willingly played along. We will probably never know.

Some ideas and conclusions

The murder of Meredith Kercher was sexual in nature, this is evident from clues left at the crime scene and DNA evidence implying a sexual assault took place. Though we cannot be sure exactly what happened or why, theory and research on violent sexual homicide has indicated that a possible motivation for the attack was humiliation and domination.

A victim can be humiliated or dominated in a number of ways, but rape or sexual assault is fairly common in these cases. An attack of this kind does not have to be planned and can in some instances be spontaneous but we must consider that a knife was taken to the house when other knives at the cottage with which to threaten Meredith could have been used. This implies an element of premediation which is disturbing.

The way in which Meredith was attacked and killed was extremely brutal and though the crime scene was methodically cleaned (implying a detachment following the murder that is also disturbing) the murder appears to have been frenzied and angry. The possible scenario of domination and humiliation is a likely motive for the murder of Meredith Kercher and if this is the case it implies a level of sadism that is extremely indicative of some psychological problem.

A few days ago I received an email asking me why I thought the murder of Meredith Kercher was not premeditated. Some of you may know that I’ve so far been leaning in the direction that the murder was not planned, but the more I have read the more I’ve started leaning in the other direction. As such I’ve recently spent a great deal of time thinking about this aspect of the case, not least because understanding how the murder came about is crucial to fitting together what still remains a very complex puzzle.  The issue of whether the killing was premeditated is important for two reasons (amongst others); firstly in establishing the motive for the murder and secondly, if the defendants are found guilty and the jury is convinced that they acted with the sole intention of murdering Meredith Kercher that night, this will probably be reflected in the sentencing and influence future parole applications.

I’ve been successfully fighting the idea that the murder was premeditated for quite some time, usually with the psychological mantra ‘but they have no history of violent behaviour’, this case has and continues to surprise me regularly, not least because it defies so much of what I know about violent sexual crimes and the sorts of people that commit them.

When I first started reading about the case in detail I thought it sounded like another drug experience gone bad, with a big row thrown in and a resulting gang attack that ended tragically, but the more I have read the more I have begun to realise that things are certainly not what they seem and several troubling factors have lead me to believe that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito probably had something planned for Meredith that night. The prosecution have claimed that Meredith was murdered during a drug-fuelled sex game, referencing violent Japanese manga comics, bloodlust, extreme thrill seeking and vampires as a possible motive. I’m not sure how many people believe the prosecutions theory about what happened that night, Judge Micheli himself has dubbed it ‘fantasy’.

It’s a bit of a shame that the prosecution went in for the most fanciful tale possible as it has now led some people following the case (including myself) to believe that seriously considering any of the ideas put forward by the prosecution is both farcical and pointless. Some people have been quick to criticise Mignini for spinning his fantastical tale without really considering why he came to the conclusions he did, after all he wouldn’t want to deliberately risk making a fool of himself again, something in that house disturbed him, something was terribly amiss and with the evidence he had in front of him and an apparent lack of motive, he did the best he could with what he had. Even with this in mind I’ll be the first to admit that the prosecution’s theory about what happened that night is an overdramatic reconstruction of events but there is quite a bit of evidence that suggests something was planned (even if it wasn’t necessarily murder).

I only began seriously considering the idea of premeditation just a few days ago and I must say I was alarmed at the things that seemed to slot into place when I began looking at the case in a different way, it’s easy to get bogged down with crime/psychology theory without actually considering how the individual parts fit together, this is such a unique and important crime for so many reasons and some of the evidence suggestive of premeditation includes:

Communications

The Phones
Part of the reason I began reconsidering my perspective on premeditated murder was in part due to the email sent to me a few days ago that listed mobile phone activity as one of the ‘red flags’ for premeditation. I’d heard a lot about the phone activity but didn’t realise quite how much the phone evidence actually supports the idea that the attack on Meredith was in some way premeditated. The PMF ‘Primary Comprehensive Timeline’ really helped me out with this bit.

Evidence seems to indicate that the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito switched their mobile phones off at the same time on the evening of the 1st November 2007 at around 8.40pm. Though it is not unusual for people to switch off their mobile phones it does seem odd that AK and RS would do so at the same time and so early on in the evening, especially if we consider they may have been expecting a phone call from a parent/friend at some point. Raffaele’s dad tried to call him on the landline in his apartment at around 8.40pm but it was not picked up or returned that night. If RS was in his apartment the whole time (as he has claimed) why did he not pick up the call? If they were ‘busy’, why not call him back afterwards? Probably because RS wasn’t at his apartment that night, he was somewhere else and his mobile phone was switched off.

From what I have read it seems Amanda, like any young woman of her age far away from home, was a fairly regular user of her mobile phone and records have indicated she often used her phone late into the night. Police noted that she sent a text message along the lines of “ok, see you later” to her boss Patrick Lumumba (as a response to him telling her not to bother coming into work that night) not long before the phones were switched off. Incidentally Patrick’s phone was recorded in the vicinity of the cottage at around 8.38pm. The evidence seems to indicate that the mobile phones were not switched back on until very early (around dawn) on the morning of the 2nd November 2007.

Strangely, Amanda allegedly sent a flurry of text messages to Meredith on Halloween asking to meet up and whether she had a costume etc, this seems a bit odd as testimony from Meredith’s friends indicates the two weren’t really very good friends, Amanda had her own company (RS) and would have known Meredith was out with her own friends and drinking alcohol, why was she so intent on meeting up with her that night? Did they have something planned for Halloween instead (when Meredith was tipsy and probably easier to control or manipulate) or does the flurry of text messages now seem more ominous because of what happened later?

I’m no expert on mobile phones (some excellent discussion has already taken place over at PMF) but the evidence suggests a break in the pattern of regular mobile phone use that night. It could be suggested that AK and RS wanted some privacy, maybe while they were eating or having sex but I find it hard to believe that one would need to switch a mobile phone off in order to obtain that kind of privacy, surely the ‘silent’ function would do? Turning both mobile phones off at the same time seems a bit like putting up a ‘do not disturb’ sign. It could be possible that whoever suggested switching off the phones knew something about mobile phone signal and triangulation, someone who knows all about computer science perhaps?

One commenter on the site sent me the following link which seems like a very useful guide, though it’s a US Dept Commerce document, I can imagine the Italians have a similar phone infrastructure to that in the US so similar principles to mobile phone forensics could be applied. It’s called ‘Guidelines on Cell Phone Forensics’ you can find it here

The Email
In a previous post I discussed the email Amanda sent to 23 of her family and friends 2 days after the murder and shortly before she was arrested. In it Amanda has a virtually perfect recall of everything that happened in the afternoon before the murder took place, shortly before the body was found and what happened afterwards. Amanda is very vague about what she was doing the actual night of the murder. Though this is suspicious it is not evidence of premeditation, the way she discusses in very precise detail Meredith’s movements and actions on the afternoon of the 1st November 2007 (and that Raffaele was present in the cottage during this time) indicates a fixation on Meredith at this point in time that, considering what happened later that evening is eerily worrying. Were Amanda and Raffaele watching Meredith that afternoon? Amanda mentions Meredith said “bye and left for the day” , Raffaele himself has also said “Meredith was there but she left in a hurry about 4 pm without saying where she was going”, why would they want to know where she was going? Why does it even matter? Did they ask her? Did they want to know what time she would be back? Did Meredith tell them? Were they waiting for her when she got back? Or does the content of the email describing Meredith’s precise actions and movements (like the flurry of text messages sent on Halloween) seem more significant because of what happened later?

The Presence of Rudy Guede

For a long time I’ve been wondering exactly where Rudy Guede fits in with what happened that night. Why was he there? Both defendants have denied any kind of friendship or prior relationship with him and despite the recent break in at the house, the evidence we have so far seems to indicate that the lone wolf theory is not credible, Kermit’s excellent powerpoint presentation on the recent break-in at 7 Via Della Pergola outlines why this recent break in does not lend any credibility to the lone wolf theory, you can download it here.

Rudy Guede has been found guilty and is currently serving a 30 year sentence for his part in the murder and sexual assault of Meredith Kercher, DNA (amongst other) evidence has placed Knox and Sollecito inside the cottage on the night of the murder and even the murder weapon in Knox’s hand. Testimony has indicated that Knox may have met Guede through the boys downstairs who were growing marijuana. Is it possible the two became acquaintances, even friends? People who knew Amanda have doubted this but would those people, who, it seems did not socialise much with Knox, be the best people to attest with whom she spent her time? The evidence strongly suggests that Amanda Knox knew Rudy Guede prior to the murder of Meredith Kercher, what else could explain his presence in the house that night? Why else would Amanda, being the only person in Perugia with a key, let Rudy into the house otherwise? He certainly didn’t climb through Filomena’s window that’s for sure! Raffaele probably only met Guede through Amanda, maybe he was their dealer, maybe he was just a friend or maybe even another of Amanda’s flings. Rudy Guede had no reason to be at the cottage that night, other than to deliver drugs and/or take part in the sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher. The presence of Rudy Guede in itself could suggest some kind of premeditated attack.

There are even more odd coincidences about Guede’s presence that could suggest a planned attack. I like a few others believe that parts of Rudy’s version of events, despite being dismissed as “a highly improbable fantasy” by Judge Micheli, may actually be based in truth (things such as times, locations and people, though the version itself is absolute rubbish). Rudy Guede claims he had a date with Meredith that night, this has since been established as false but, according to Guede he arrived at the cottage at 8.38pm, two minutes before AK and RS’s mobile phones were switched off, early reports on the case alleged that CCTV footage showed Knox entering her house at 8.43pm, alone. In fact if you look at the 8.30-9.15pm timeslot on the PMF’s ‘Primary Timeline’, there seems to be an awful lot going on. Guede claims Meredith arrived just after him at around 8.46pm, she didn’t in fact arrive home until 9.15pm upon which the victim allegedly started a phone call with her mother around 9.30pm. The fact that the phones were switched off at around 8.40pm, Rudy claims to have arrived at the house at 8.38pm and Amanda may have been caught on CCTV at 8.43pm could indicate that this was an arranged meeting time. According to the defendants they did not know Rudy Guede, according to Meredith Kercher’s friends they do not remember her meeting Guede and imply she certainly wouldn’t have invited him over for consensual sex, so what was he doing there? Dealing?

Drugs
My views on the drug angle of this case have been majorly skewed by the idea that the murder could have been premeditated. I originally thought that drug induced violence could have been the cause of the escalation that led to Meredith’s murder but now I’m not so sure, I’m fairly sure the drugs were there but maybe in a different capacity, like an aperitif . Rudy Guede could have been at the cottage to deal drugs, in fact this could have been one of his roles that night, the only thing that is stumping me is, if they decided they did want to do a couple of fat lines of coke and dance about like idiots, why didn’t they do it at Raffaele’s place? Or in town? It does sound like drugs are rife in Perugia and now that I’m considering the case in more detail than before it seems odd that they would have chosen to do drugs at the cottage in plain view of Meredith if they had not planned to see Meredith that evening.

Was Rudy a Pawn?

The person that emailed me also pointed out that considering what may have happened that night there seemed to be a prior relationship between Amanda and Rudy with a kind of trust that would have taken quite a while to build up. Though in principle I agree I also think it’s likely that Rudy could have been attracted to Amanda, maybe even had sex with her and could have been more likely to trust her as a result, this kind of trust could have built up pretty quickly and I’m fairly sure that Amanda could have had Rudy under her thumb in no time at all, just look how quickly her relationship with Raffaele intensified. It seems that Rudy fancied Meredith and, if he and Amanda were friends or acquaintances, knowing they lived in the same house, Rudy may have confided in Amanda in the hope that she might be able to get him a date. Is it possible that Amanda used Guede to form part of a kind of sick ‘punishment’ for Meredith? Why else would Rudy have shown up at the house that night? Why would Amanda have wanted to ‘include’ him? If Amanda invited Rudy to the cottage that night, considering what happened it’s fair to say that something must have been planned.

Clean-Up
It seems that any friendship or trust that had been built up between Amanda and Rudy quickly evaporated when they were faced with a bloody crime scene, Amanda and Raffaele may have convinced Rudy to go out into town to be seen by witnesses or he may have taken off of his own accord, either way the cleanup operation commenced later that evening along with the staging of the rape. The couple planned to leave only traces of Guede’s involvement intact, including the un-flushed faeces in the toilet and the bloody handprint; this could indicate they planned to incriminate him all along. The clean-up operation must have required a strong, clear mind, imagine trying to remember where you had put your hands, everything you had touched as well as everything the victim and the other people with you had touched. Cleaning up your own involvement but making sure to leave evidence behind to implicate someone else is not any easy job, especially when a lot of the evidence needing to be erased is invisible or so small you need very good eyes (or a bright lamp) to see it. It took a very precise mind to alter that crime scene, one that was detached, calm and organised. I’m fairly sure this could not be the result of improvisation, this could further support the idea that the murder may have been premeditated.

The Knife

The suspected murder weapon is a 13.4 inch kitchen knife, it reportedly has the victims DNA on the tip of the blade and Amanda’s on the handle. It was found hidden in Raffaele’s apartment and (the prosecution believe) it had been thoroughly bleached. This knife belonged to Raffaele and lived in the drawer in his apartment. It was probably used for cooking. Testimony from others living with Meredith and Amanda has stated that it was not a knife from 7 Via Della Pergola. Why then, was it taken to the cottage, reportedly used to kill Meredith Kercher, taken back to Raffaele’s apartment, thoroughly bleached and hidden?

For quite some time I thought the reports that a small piece of mushroom had been found lodged in Meredith’s throat (even though her friends stated her last meal contained no mushroom) were significant as this implied that the knife may have been used for chopping mushrooms on the night of the murder. I also thought that if the knives at the cottage were blunt, it may have been possible that Amanda and Raffaele took a knife with them knowing it would be impossible to cook with what was at the cottage. Without knowing the standard of the knives at the cottage it would be impossible to say whether this is a likely scenario or not. On the other hand, who needs a sharp knife to chop mushrooms? A fork could probably do the job! Another reason I doubted the knife was taken with the intention of murdering Meredith was its appearance. Raffaele collected knives; I’m not sure what kind though I can imagine he probably had a favourite. It seemed likely to me that had he planned to use a knife with which to kill he would have chosen one that had a special kind of significance for him (especially if we are to believe all of this vampire, orgy, execution stuff), something ornate, gilded perhaps, but it’s not, it’s your bog standard, run-of-the-mill, ordinary, boring kitchen knife. Why this one? Why not something special? This has stumped me for some time and indeed it was the main reason I doubted that the murder of Meredith Kercher was premeditated, yet when I began to take out these small points I had clung onto in the hope that this was not all an elaborate game, I began to realise that the knife could have been chosen for the fact that it was so ordinary, it would blend nicely with the others in the drawer and the fact that it came from another apartment they may have thought it would never be found.

Some Ideas and Conclusions

These are a couple of the ideas I have had in relation to the murder possibly being premeditated and they do seem to make more sense than a petty argument gone wrong. There is still a chance that the murder was not planned, I don’t really want to go into the possible motives here but a planned rape seems fairly credible, but then we’re back to that knife again….

I seem to have done a bit of a u-turn recently from thinking the murder was spontaneous and drug fuelled to thinking they may have sat there, strummed the guitar and planned what they wanted to do to Meredith all afternoon, maybe the wheels were in motion long before Halloween.

I think it’s likely that I didn’t want to consider the murder was just a very sick game and maybe even wanted to cling onto the hope that they intended to let her get out alive. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe it was all just a game.

And that’s the worst thing of all

A key witness for the prosecution has been arrested after several grams of cocaine were found in his home.

Quoting from the article:

“In a separate development overnight, Italian police arrested an Albanian man in Perugia who is among the key witnesses cited by the prosecution, the ANSA news agency and local media reported. He was picked up on drug charges and cocaine had been found in his apartment, the reports said.The man has told prosecutors that he saw Knox, Sollecito and Guede together the night before the slaying in front of Knox’s and Kercher’s apartment.

He already gave testimony during a preliminary hearing and had been scheduled to appear in court in upcoming hearings”

If this is true and he saw all three together we may have reason to question whether he knew one or all of the three on a more ‘personal’ level.

I would also be interested to know why his house was searched. Though this may potentially discredit him further as a ‘reliable’ witness it also raises a few interesting questions, namely: what was he doing near the cottage that night? Did he know one or all of the defendants? Why did he come forward as a witness if he has been dealing drugs, bit risky…

I have recently read a Le Monde article (kindly translated by Skeptical Bystander) that suggests Perugia has a very high rate of deaths due to cocaine overdose and believe that cocaine may well have played a very key role in what happened that night.

Just another odd coincidence…

In the previous post I discussed the evidence suggesting that Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede attempted to conceal the underlying motives behind the attack on Meredith Kercher by smashing a window and scattering clothes around to simulate a burglary attempt which turned violent.

In the excellent summary of the 106 page report by Judge Micheli, he outlines his reasons why Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been brought to trial.

Two of the most significant points in the brief summary include the assertion that the victim’s body was moved after death and that she was wearing her bra at the time of death, yet when her body was discovered the bra had been cut off. There was also evidence that a cleanup attempt had occurred.

The evidence put forward seems to indicate that the perpetrator/s involved in the murder of Meredith Kercher, returned to the cottage, moved the body and cut off the bra to lead investigators to believe the bra had been removed before death. This seems to indicate that the perpetrator/s was attempting to lead the investigators to the conclusion that the motivation for the attack was rape.

I would like to emphasise that despite my belief the rape was staged, in no way do I doubt that Meredith Kercher was subjected to a cruel and degrading sexual assault by Rudy Guede most likely with the two defendants present. The aim of this sexual assault was to frighten and humiliate the victim, whose resulting reaction, coupled with the excitement and escalation of tension and violence resulted in the fatal neck wound, most likely administered by the defendant Amanda Knox.

From the evidence put forward so far, some questions about the rape remain:

Why would the perpetrator/s stage a rape when the crime scene had already been staged to look like a burglary?

I believe the burglary was staged immediately after the attack on Meredith, upon which the accused fled the scene and were reportedly seen by a number of witnesses. Meredith was wearing her bra when she was killed yet forensic evidence recovered from the scene suggests that the person/s involved returned to the crime scene and cut off Meredith’s bra in order to suggest a rape had taken place. This may have happened for a number of reasons:

Firstly it is quite common for violent attacks on women resulting in death to involve some sort of sexual assault and or rape, whoever altered the crime scene had the primary motive of concealing what took place and why. Like with the burglary, the perpetrator/s may have had some sort of preconceived or stereotyped idea about what the crime scene should look like and staged the rape make the scene consistent with the perpetrator/s individual schema.

If the rape had actually happened the person/s involved would not have been interested in making it look more like a rape, it could be suggested that the person/s covering up the actual underlying motive for the attack knew that some sort of sexual assault had taken place and wanted to steer investigators in this direction in the hope that this would become the primary focus of the investigation. Rudy Guede’s DNA was found inside Meredith, the judge believed this was consistent with manual sexual assault. Whoever staged the rape wanted investigators to focus on Guede, the best way to do this would be to draw attention to his primary role in the attack. Rape is a predominantly male crime, it could be suggested that whoever staged the rape was not expecting investigators to link the crime to a female perpetrator.

The burglary was a terrible attempt at staging the crime scene; this is evident in the testimony of Inspector Michele Battistelli who spotted it almost immediately. The perpetrator/s would have been intensely stressed and probably in a great deal of shock when the burglary was staged. Whoever staged the rape had all night to do so and probably returned to the house knowing that Guede had gone out clubbing in order to pin all the blame on him and divert attention away from themselves.

Who was involved in staging the rape? Could they just have been covering for Guede?

Witnesses report seeing Rudy Guede out on the town after the attack on Meredith. It seems he fled the scene, went home, showered and went out, probably in the naive hope that a number of witnesses would come forward to provide him with an alibi. This of course was catastrophic, both for Guede and the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

Guede had gone out and was seen by a number of witnesses in town. Forensic evidence suggests that Meredith’s bra was removed after death and when the clean up attempt began. Guede could not have been involved in this as he was in town at the time. Witnesses have placed Guede outside the cottage at this time and forensic evidence has placed Knox and Sollecito inside.

Not only does this further annihilate the lone wolf theory it also seriously implicates Knox and Sollecito in the murder of Meredith Kercher. Why? Because the defendants would have absolutely no motive to implicate themselves in a murder investigation and commit a fairly serious criminal offence by covering up for Rudy Guede. Even if one of the accused attempted the ‘I was just a cleaner’ defence it would implicate the other defendant in both the murder and in the admission that at least one of the defendants knew Rudy Guede prior to the murder of Meredith Kercher. Something both defendants adamantly deny.

Amanda and Raffaele freaked, panicked and returned to the cottage to begin the cleanup operation. Evidence seems to suggest that Amanda and Raffaele didn’t do a terrible job of cleaning up their own involvement I suppose the job was made infinitely easier by the fact that any fingerprints found would be relatively easy to explain away considering Amanda lived in the same house as Meredith. Unsurprisingly plenty of Guede’s DNA, footprints, a bloody handprint on a pillow as well as his faecal matter was left in the toilet for investigators to find. The defendants moved the body, cut off Meredith’s bra and staged the rape. They covered the body, took the knife and left.

What does the staged rape tell us about the defendants and the underlying motives behind the crime?

As with the burglary, the staging of the rape implies a prior relationship between the defendants and the victim, this is further supported by the fact that Meredith was found partially clothed and not fully naked. Research and analysis of previous cases indicates that offenders who stage a crime scene to look like rape are extremely unlikely to leave the victim completely naked and are much more likely to cover the body than offenders who have committed violent sexual homicides. This is because the person/s staging the crime scene often knows the victim personally. This was not a random attack, whoever covered Meredith’s body didn’t want to look at her (or couldn’t).

The fact that a rape was implied may indicate that rape fantasies were involved or that rape was the primary objective of the attack. It has been suggested that bruising on the victim is consistent with being forcibly held, with a knife to the throat and an attack from behind. Media coverage of the case also indicated that Guede attempted to rape Meredith. Guede may not have been able to go through with the attack for a number of reasons: he may have been put off by the presence of the two defendants or he may have been scared. Similarly, Meredith may have attempted to scream. It does appear that a rape was attempted and tensions escalated which culminated in the fatal would.

The original motivation behind the attack may have lead to the idea of staging the rape in order to implicate Guede who was certainly out of his depth and in his panic, presumably sloppy about any trace evidence he left behind. This could certainly have been exploited by the cleverer Knox and Sollecito who would have both been desperate to conceal their involvement in what had happened.

The staging of the rape also provides an interesting insight into the defendant’s rape schema. If a rapist had broken into the apartment and attacked Meredith there would be no real need to remove the bra to complete the rape. If the rapist had a particular need to expose the breasts why not cut the bra off at the time of the attack? The bra did not come off until much later and was cut off at the back indicating a further schema about how a bra is ‘supposed’ to come off, surely a rapist with a need to expose the breasts would remove the bra at the time of the attack and in the most convenient way possible, not wait until after death to move the body and cut the bra off at the back. DNA evidence found on the bra clasp has implicated Raffaele Sollecito.

Furthermore, a lot has been made of Amanda’s ‘Baby Brother’ short story, which despite its plotline being virtually impossible to follow does provide an interesting and unique insight into her individual rape fantasies. Rape fantasies are very common amongst young women and Amanda may have been driven to act upon them during the attack and probably when staging the crime scene.

What really happened?

I fear that we will never really know what happened to Meredith Kercher or why. The evidence available so far seems to indicate that this was a complex, unique and multilayered crime. The tragic death of Meredith Kercher has certainly captured the attention of people all over the world.

Though the details of what happened to poor Meredith are extremely unpleasant, we must remember that she died a slow and agonising death and for what? Seemingly no reason at all? Questions must be asked and evidence followed in order to ascertain why this beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her was attacked and killed in such a brutal way.

I firmly believe that Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede were equally culpable in what happened to Meredith that night and that Amanda and Raffaele had motive and opportunity to conceal what they had done by attempting to stage the rape and blame Rudy Guede. Justice must be served. The defendants need to stop hiding behind large wads of cash.

Let the evidence speak for itself.

 

Firstly I would like to thank the team at True Justice for Meredith Kercher for translating and summarising the 106 page report by Judge Micheli. This excellent summary will hopefully help those interested in the case further understand the reasons why Micheli handed down a 30 year sentence to Rudy Guede and what motivated his decision to bring Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito to trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher.

 

Most of the evidence put forward so far and the general consensus amongst investigators and objective media reports  is that the crime scene was staged in the hope that investigators would believe that the perpetrator/s had acted alone and broken into the house to steal which resulted in a confrontation and the attack on Meredith.

 

The fact that the crime scene was staged could provide a useful insight into the nature of the offence and also the person/s involved.

 

Investigators will often look for behavioural clues left by a perpetrator at a crime scene by trying to establish the sequence of events that lead to the murder of the victim. Each crime scene is totally unique and must be treated as such. Establishing how the victim was attacked and subdued are important indicators of behaviour as well as determining whether the victim was mutilated and/or sexually assaulted and if so whether this sexual assault and/or mutilation occurred before or after death. Investigators may also be interested in establishing whether the perpetrator deliberately or accidently left or removed an item at the crime scene.

 

Studying the victim (victimology) is also important as the age, gender, physical build and ethnic origin (amongst others) of the victim can often give investigators further important behavioural clues about the perpetrator and what need they serve by killing.

 

Sometimes when analysing a crime scene investigators may notice certain irregularities that attempt to obscure or alter the underlying motive/s of the crime. Examples of this could include a broken window that seems to indicate a point of entry yet on closer inspection appears to be broken from the inside. Another example of staging could be a crime scene where officers notice cupboards and drawers open, objects knocked on the floor and a big mess which appears to indicate a burglary but on closer inspection and after interviewing friends or relatives, the investigators establish that nothing of value has been taken.

 

These irregularities in the crime scene are often the result of a behaviour called staging or purposely altering the crime scene after the event and prior to the arrival of the police. Staging usually takes place to steer the investigation and the attention of the police away from the perpetrator involved or to obscure the truth about what happened to the victim and the manner in which they died (faking a suicide is a good example of this).

 

Perpetrators who stage a crime scene will often make mistakes and leave clues behind; this is because a perpetrator will usually attempt to rearrange the scene to resemble what they believe it should look like. When rearranging a crime scene most offenders experience a great deal of stress and panic and because of this panic, do not have the time to fit all the pieces together logically and set a convincing ‘stage’ to lead the police down the ‘right track’. As a result of this, inconsistencies in forensic findings and in the overall view of the crime scene will begin to emerge. Most investigators can quickly spot whether or not a crime scene has been staged.

 

Another interesting point that investigators will often consider is whether the level of violence fits the crime and the ‘stage’ that has been set by the perpetrator.

 

One of the questions I’d like to consider is how the person/s involved in killing Meredith altered the crime scene, why this occurred and the implications it may have for understanding the motivations of the person/s involved.

 

Inspector Michele Battistelli was one of the first officers at the scene where Meredith’s body was found. He recently testified in court: “Straightaway I thought it was an attempt to make it look like a burglary”. Battistelli also found that a window had been broken but the shattered glass lay on top of some clothes that had been scattered on the floor. Although at first glance it appeared to be a burglary attempt gone bad, suspicions were immediately aroused indicating something far more sinister had happened when Battistelli established that despite the supposed burglary, a laptop, video camera and other valuables had not been taken from the house. Battistelli noted that the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito seemed “embarrassed and surprised” during the initial search of the house.

 

Several factors that investigators often consider when confronted with a violent crime where burglary appears to be a motive:

 

·        Did the offenders take anything of value?

·        If the offenders took or attempted to take objects of value, were they large or small objects? Why take a TV when a box of jewellery is just as valuable, less conspicuous and easier to carry?

·        Did the point of entry make sense? i.e. did the offender climb though a higher storey window when a lower and more easily accessible point of entry was possible?

·        Did the offender appear to put themselves at risk? Was the offence committed in broad daylight when darkness would have provided better cover for the offence?

·        Does the level of violence fit the crime?

 

In this case we can almost certainly rule out a burglary ever taking place:

 

Missing valuables

The investigating officers noted that only Meredith’s rent money had been taken. Although a thief would have almost certainly taken the money if it had been found, burglars often break into houses to steal objects they can sell rather than optimistically expecting to find cash. If a serious burglary had occurred, objects like Meredith’s laptop would almost certainly have been taken as well as valuables from the other girls’ rooms. Whoever took the money already knew it was there.

 

Entry point, risk taking and victim selection

Similarly, the window was almost certainly broken from the inside as, had the window been broken as an entry point the glass would have been underneath the scattered clothes. Also, the broken window was significantly higher off the ground than other easier entry points. We must also consider the main objective of a burglary: to steal as much valuable stuff as quickly and conveniently as possible. The boy’s apartment (downstairs) would have been a much, safer and easier target for a burglary, nobody home and surely they’d have valuables too. Why scale a wall and break in through a small window to steal from an upstairs apartment when an easier target would be a deserted downstairs apartment? The principle target in the attack was Meredith Kercher. A burglar would have no reason to make things harder by targeting Meredith specifically; hence a burglary doesn’t make sense.

 

Level of violence used

 

I’d make an educated guess that if whoever set the stage for the police managed to convince them a burglary took place, they’d probably still have suspected something was amiss simply because of the level of violence involved in the attack on Meredith. Investigating officers are trained to look for patterns in victim selection, type of crime and weapon employed. Lone burglars who are confronted will often attempt to run away and if they do attack, they don’t often cause serious injury or death simply because they are often good at selecting properties where the owner/s are not home. Aggravated burglary is rare and usually the burglar will only lash out when threatened. The attack on Meredith was violent, sadistic, prolonged and extremely brutal, a burglar would be more likely to kick, punch or throw an object with the objective of getting away than sexually assault and kill. The objective would be to escape as quickly as possible without being seen, with as many valuables as possible, not to hang around, sexually assault and brutally kill a young woman.

 

The evidence available so far indicates that whoever killed Meredith Kercher attempted to make it appear to investigating officers that someone had broken into the apartment to steal and had violently attacked Meredith when confronted.

 

What does this tell us about the perpetrator/s responsible for the attack on Meredith and the subsequent attempt to stage the crime scene?

 

Offenders who attempt to stage a crime scene almost always know the victim in some way, often quite well. The fact that the perpetrator/s attempted to stage the crime scene to look like a burglary indicates a relationship with the victim. The person/s involved obviously panicked and made a very poor effort to stage a burglary, no objects were taken and the window was smashed from the inside, yet whoever set the scene had an unrealistic preconceived idea of what a burglary would look like and haphazardly threw some clothes around to create a scene. Whoever did this obviously had no idea what a convincing burglary would look like as it immediately roused the suspicions of the police, this could indicate that the person/s who staged the crime scene had never been involved in or experienced burglary before.

 

I believe the stage was set by Rudy Guede, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. This was done quickly, in a total state of panic and following this, all three fled the scene.

 

Some ideas and conclusions

 

I believe Knox and Sollecito had doubts about how convincing their staged burglary would be. By this time Guede had already left the house, gone home, showered and gone out clubbing. I believe it was these doubts, coupled with the idea that they could pin the blame on Guede that made Knox and Sollecito go back to the house to stage the rape and attempt to clean up their own involvement.

 

 

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