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.