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.