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

Advertisements