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Cash machine records show that Meredith had withdrawn approx €300 to pay for her rent which was due at the start of the month but the landlord never received the money; neither did Filomena who sub-letted rooms to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:

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 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.