This is the fourth 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 the idea of theft as a possible motive for what happened that night. Though there is a great deal of evidence to suggest a theft did take place, it seems unlikely that this would be the sole cause of the violent attack which tragically culminated in Meredith’s death.

In the first two posts I discussed the idea that the murder fits into the category of a sex related homicide, I also discussed current theory about classification of violence and the part it may play in helping us to understand this unique and complex crime. I do not currently believe that theft is a viable motive for what appears to be a complex and sadistic sex related homicide. There is however, another theory that could help explain how this tragedy came about and the violence with which it was executed: Anger.

Anger and some of its causes

Anger is an emotional state that encompasses anything from moderate irritation to full blown rage. The physical effects of anger include: increased heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline. Anger usually comes about for some of the following (real or perceived) reasons: Feelings of being wronged or humiliated, feelings of resentment, mistreatment, frustration, losing face or being made to feel helpless, lack of control, having ones personal space invaded, injustice, feeling trapped or isolated and jealousy.

Everyone is different and therefore feels and responds to anger in different ways, some people are easy to anger or lose their temper, this is usually associated with a short sharp burst of aggression as a result of frustration at the real or perceived source of irritation which quickly subsides upon venting. Other people let these feelings of frustration and resentment build up over a long period of time, this can sometimes be because they feel it is inappropriate to or don’t know how to express the way they feel, given enough time this can result in an explosion of rage, akin to a balloon slowly filling up with air which eventually pops. It can take a long time for these balloons to ‘pop’, sometimes even years. Some of the latter may avoid getting angry at the person/thing that is the route of the real or perceived problem, usually because the source of anger/frustration is a loved one, partner or family member and they do not want to upset them or cause them pain by expressing the way they feel directly, this can lead to what’s known as displaced anger

Displaced anger
A psychologist once described displaced anger as ‘anger without a home’. Displaced anger occurs when an individual cannot confront the real source of their anger and as such the anger never really goes away but instead comes out in other ways or is projected onto something or more often than not someone else, anything which is safer or more convenient than confronting the source or cause of the anger. Displaced anger often leads to hostility or affront which in turn can lead to individuals being ostracised or ignored, leading to further resentment and anger.

Evidence to suggest anger as a possible motive

There is some evidence available about the crime scene and the nature of the attack which suggests that anger may have played a role in what happened that night:

Offence Classification and Crime Scene
As I outlined in a previous post, the murder of Meredith Kercher fits into the category of a sex related homicide and specifically, one with a rape and/or sodomy motivation, these types of homicide are usually extremely sadistic with victims often suffering a violent sexual assault and equally violent death, usually from manual strangulation, asphyxiation and/or multiple stab wounds to the throat, chest and abdomen. Meredith had 47 separate injuries on her body when she died; as well as the three knife wounds to her neck, one of them deep and fatal, Meredith also had defensive knife wounds on her hands and face as well as injuries consistent with being forcibly held or restrained and manually strangled as well as a broken Hyoid bone in her neck. The evidence indicates she was taunted with the blade of a knife whilst being held and sexually assaulted. God knows how long this went on for, how frightened she must have been and how bravely she fought for her life. Whoever killed Meredith took pleasure in and deliberately ensured her suffering. Similarly, the knife wound itself is reported to be very deep and very nasty, it could be suggested that the final blow represented a release of some kind this, coupled with the idea that the victim was tortured and humiliated before death, suggests the emotion driving the person wielding the knife could well have been anger manifested through any number of emotions.

DNA evidence has implicated Amanda Knox

As the DNA evidence so far indicates that Amanda may have wielded the knife and struck the final blow I will be concentrating on Amanda in my consideration of the potential sources of her anger and how they may relate to her interaction with the victim and what happened that night, within the framework of this theory.

I think it’s important to consider Amanda almost as if she were two separate people as from descriptions of her character by the people who know her best, it sounds as if the Amanda we are seeing is a very different Amanda to the idealistic young lady that left the US for an adventure in Perugia.

Why was Amanda angry?

In Perugia
There has been a great deal of speculation about the relationship between Amanda and Meredith and whether it could have directly contributed to the events of that tragic evening in November 2007. There are quite a few people who believe Amanda had a deep-rooted hatred of Meredith and may have killed her for that reason. I for one believe Amanda may have disliked Meredith after a while, maybe even despised her towards the time Meredith was killed, but as with most aspects of this case, attempting to understand why usually creates more questions than it answers.

Discussion about the relationship between the two young women has been varied, some maintain it was bordering on mutual hatred, others claim the two were fairly firm friends. Having reviewed what has been written so far I’m currently leaning in the direction that the relationship was at best, strained. Testimony from Meredith’s friends has indicated that she sometimes complained about small things like Amanda not doing her share of the cleaning, not flushing the toilet, bringing home strange men and deliberately leaving her condoms and vibrator on full display inside a clear plastic cosmetics bag in the bathroom she and Meredith shared. It has also been stated that the two were close initially but then drifted apart as they found their feet amongst different social circles in Perugia. Then we have the testimony that indicates a possible ‘rivalry’ over Giacomo Silenzi with Amanda supposedly giving Meredith ‘permission’ to date him. These things, though small could have over time led to a certain amount of animosity between the two, with Meredith too prudent to approach the issue directly and Amanda possibly oblivious to the way her housemate was feeling.

It would be a shame to have to go into the whole ‘good girls do bad girls don’t’ thing, which isn’t the issue here, however I do believe that Meredith and Amanda were very, very different people with Meredith seemingly the more mature and sensible of the two, I also believe that Meredith tried to talk to Amanda in a firm but friendly way, in an extract from her diary Amanda says “she gave me advice and protected me when I found myself in difficult situations”. Though Amanda’s has a track record of not telling the truth or fabricating it to suit her individual needs, I believe there are elements of truth in her diary and this could be a recollection of sorts possibly of a time that she and Meredith talked openly about things that were bothering her. I believe that despite trying to get along with her housemate, over time Meredith said things and acted in a way that aroused Amanda’s hostility towards her, though Meredith would have seen these things as perfectly reasonable and not in the least offensive, Amanda may have taken them to heart especially if it appeared Meredith was getting on better with Laura and Filomena in terms of tidiness around the house. Amanda may have perceived them to have been ‘ganging up on her’ by telling her what to do with regard to the cleaning rota and other household affairs, in her testimony Filomena said: “At first they got on very well…then things began to take a different road and there was a bit of tension over the cleaning rotas…I know Amanda missed her turn a couple of times, she didn’t always respect them.” Amanda was in Italy for the year of fun and freedom she had been waiting for, she probably resented a cleaning rota and may even have perceived it as boring, restrictive and a barrier to the relaxed, chilled-out and exciting adventure she had envisaged living in the house would be.

An interesting point to consider when looking at the relationship between Amanda and Meredith is the idea that they were both in Perugia for very different reasons. In his excellent post on TJMK, Stuarthome2000 outlines the differences between Meredith’s accredited ERASMUS exchange program and the kind of year Amanda had planned which was arguably just an unsupervised year of relaxed language classes and partying. Amanda was not on an accredited program and the level of supervision she would have received was minimal in comparison to Meredith who would have had people checking up on her attendance, behaviour and progress throughout her time in Perugia. According to the article, the University of Washington doesn’t have a study abroad program in Perugia so precisely why Amanda decided to take time out from her studies to pursue an expensive and arguably less than beneficial trip half way across the ocean is anybody’s guess. As Meredith was on an accredited program she would have had access to people that could assist her with any problems she was having especially at home, had Amanda been on this kind of program as well, tensions around the house especially with regard to bringing home men and possibly doing drugs would have been diffused quickly and efficiently. As Amanda was essentially in Perugia on her own with no supervision or anyone to report back to she was essentially free to do whatever she liked, this may have made things difficult as nobody was present that could speak to or reprimand her, this must have been very frustrating for Meredith who it seems was in Perugia to get on with her studies and she certainly didn’t need the hassle of a problematic housemate. With Meredith possibly being being shy herself, she probably didn’t feel comfortable discussing the issues with Amanda directly. On a similar note it could be argued that Amanda was expecting to arrive in Perugia and meet other people that wanted to party in the same way she did, the vast majority of the students there would probably have been on accredited programs and wanted to take their studies seriously and it may have been frustrating to meet people like Meredith whose main reason for being in Perugia was to study and not to party.

I find Amanda’s blog dated 2nd September 2007 very interesting, especially when she discusses seeing the cottage for the first time and her excitement at being offered one of the rooms. She says of Filomena: “not to mention, she owns two guitars and wants to play with me. not to mention the view is amazing. not to mention i have a terrace that looks over the perugian city/countryside. not to mention she wants me to teach erh yoga. not to mention they both smoke like chimneys.” It seems that Amanda had an idea about what her time in Perugia was going to be like, full of wild parties, smoking, drinking and lots of fun, from her blog it seems Meredith wasn’t present or was just about to move in and Amanda seems very excited at the chance to spend time with the girls she refers to as “awesome. really sweet, really down to earth, funny as hell”. I often wonder how Amanda felt when she first met Meredith and how the dynamic in the house changed as a result.

In the blog dated 15th October Amanda mentions Le Chic and that she has three days off a week to do what she likes. Amanda doesn’t mention Meredith or Filomena; in fact she makes very few references to anyone specific, preferring to say she has “plenty of friends here”. In my internet trawl over the last few days I have found it hard to find any specific reference to any of Amanda’s friends in Perugia other than the boys downstairs and her boyfriend Raffaele. As Laura and Filomena worked and presumably had their own social circles and there was tension between Amanda and Meredith, with Meredith preferring to spend her time with her own friends, it does appear that Amanda had very few (if any) close friends in Perugia and even fewer who were women. I think Amanda was quite lonely in Perugia and expected to make a lot more friends than she actually did. I read somewhere that a couple of female students found Amanda to be standoffish upon first meeting her and initiating conversation, rather than making conversation with them Amanda walked up to the nearest group of boys and started flirting, one of the girls that was interviewed said she didn’t really like Amanda and didn’t get a very good first impression.

Amanda does make reference to Laura in her blog and the handyman she started dating. According to testimony from one of Meredith’s friends Amy Frost, Meredith thought Amanda idolised her housemate Laura and had her ear pierced five times to emulate her. Though this may have been the case it may also be possible that Amanda, being free to do what she liked in Perugia decided to get her ears pierced when nobody could tell her not to. Getting multiple piercings’ in a short space of time is often a sign of rebellion in younger people, especially if they have been brought up in an environment where these sorts of things were not allowed. It seems clear to me that Amanda was rebelling in Perugia, smoking a lot, drinking a lot, getting her ears pierced five times in a couple of weeks and having sex with random men. It seems like Amanda’s primary motivation for going to Italy was to escape the life she had in the US, the people that kept an eye on her and the things this represented to her. I also think Amanda had very few people with whom to talk about things that were bothering her or how she felt.

From what has been revealed about Amanda’s character in Perugia, the sorts of things she said and the way people responded to her it does seem that she was slightly unapproachable, even hostile. Many psychologists believe that displaced anger is the cause of hostility as the individual cannot express how they feel in a way that is focused and appropriate to the situation, the anger may be displaced or projected onto someone else, it may lead to the person being defensive and giving off a bad first impression. Feelings of isolation and rejection as a result of the behaviour of the individual can lead to further anger, further repression of anger and later the appearance of hostility.

In order to understand this I feel it is most important to consider the potential source of Amanda’s anger and to do that we must go back to before her time in Perugia and try to understand why, what or who she was angry with.

Before Perugia

Thanks to the interesting new article from Barbie Nadeau, my ideas about Amanda’s childhood are now slightly clearer and things are starting to make more sense. I do and always have believed that Amanda is a very angry young woman who simply has no idea how to deal/cope with or understand the way she feels about important events in her life, what she wants to do or where she wants to be.

Childhood Events

I really want to avoid the whole ‘blame the parents’ mantra, simply because it is a massive cliché, unfair and often completely off target, yet we cannot ignore certain important events in Amanda’s childhood that came about directly through choices made by Amanda’s parents.

Amanda’s parents Curt and Edda divorced when she was just two years old, according to the article written by Nadeau: “On more than one occasion Edda had to go to court to collect child support from Curt”, then when Amanda was around ten years old her mother Edda married Chris Mellas who was ten years younger.

The effects of divorce on children vary and as Amanda was very young when her parents divorced it seems unlikely that she would have been massively affected by it when it actually happened, what may be more difficult to establish is how Amanda felt about this growing up, if Curt and Edda argued about child support payments it may be the case that Curt had limited access to both Amanda and her younger sister Deanna when they were growing up, it does sound like her father was present in Amanda’s life as he said in an interview he moved only five blocks away. Curt probably encouraged her competitiveness, both academically and on the soccer field; it was here that she earned her nickname ‘Foxy Knoxy’, her sister Deanna says, “She got that nickname when she was 11 because she was intense. She was a defender; she’d crouch and come out of nowhere to stop people”. Suggestions of Amanda’s intense competitiveness interest me, I really don’t think she liked or was used to ‘losing’ at anything.

Relationship with her father
It seems Amanda takes after her father, whereas her mother Edda is frequently crying and very emotional in interviews her father, though he appears heartbroken and devastated is almost emotionless in his calmness and gives away very little about how he is feeling inside. According to her family, Amanda was a tomboy and didn’t like to wear make-up (in fact I have seen very few photos of Amanda with make-up on), Amanda preferred rock-climbing and other sports. Amanda has also suggested that she was picked on at school with other girls thinking she was a lesbian, in all likelihood I doubt her peers even really thought she was gay, but they were simply trying to understand how a pretty girl did not enjoy make-up, boys, dressing up and other more traditionally female things, despite this, these sorts of comments and accusations were probably quite hurtful especially during puberty and adolescence. It seems she was a classic tomboy and tomboys nearly always identify best with their fathers. It does seem that Amanda identified better with men on the whole, though she has some female friends it does seem she spent a lot of time socialising with men both in Seattle and in Perugia, possibly finding them less threatening. When her father was recently in court Amanda appeared more relaxed and happy, the last two appearances (with her step-father Chris Mellas present in place of Curt) have been noticeably different, with Amanda now appearing more nervous and distressed. Though she said on her MySpace profile page that her hero was her mother it seems Amanda was just as close to her father and misses his comforting presence in the courtroom greatly.

Relationship with her mother, sister and stepfather
Amanda refers to her mother as her hero (on her mirrored MySpace page) and it does seem that the two are close, her mother has been very vocal in support of her daughter’s innocence. I find the following line from Amanda’s short story ‘The Model’ very interesting and believe it sheds light on the dynamic of the house Amanda grew up in after her mother remarried and possibly even her thoughts on the news that Chris would be her new father:

“We’re going to Dad’s new place, said unflinchingly, though a hard part in my chest recoiled in on itself, tying all the tissue and tendons of my chest into a knot.
“Who the hell do you think you are, Mom?” Aislin stood up her skin blotched red at her temples. She clenched her fists and tears began in her eyes. “You think everything’s about you, don’t you? You are such an idiot!”
“idiot or not, I’m your mother, in case you forgot, and I’m telling you to get some clothes and get your butt back down here so we can leave….
…I can’t believe we’re doing this,” she said as she reached the bottom step. She bowed her head and lowered her voice. Murmured, “You’re such a bitch.”

Such anger in these words and surprisingly realistic despite the fact that the rest of the story is disjointed and hard to read. I believe Amanda was very angry when her mother married Chris; after all she had probably gotten used to it just being her Edda and Deanna and probably didn’t like the idea that someone would be ‘replacing’ her father. I also noticed possible competitiveness regarding male attention between Amanda and her sister Deanna. In an interview with the family conducted by The Times, Deanna dismisses the idea that Amanda was a man-eater by saying: “That’s ridiculous. Amanda didn’t have her first boyfriend until university, when she was 19. She’s kind of a late bloomer. We talked about guys because I had a serious boyfriend way before she had one. I’d feed her advice.” Telling indeed. It sounds like Amanda grew up with quite a lot of hassle hanging over her head; her father was not around all the time, she had a pretty hefty reputation to uphold at a strict Jesuit school, she got used to living with her mother and then her step father Chris came along. In her controversial rape-story Baby Brother Amanda wrote the following line: “I don’t want to go home. My mom’s all full up with my brother and they don’t talk to me anymore. They just go to bed. Dad and her used to fight to read me stories…” Isolation, jealousy and rejection, it’s all there, in her own words. Chris is, to put it mildly, a bit of a douche, even if we put aside the outrageous way he has conducted himself online, he still doesn’t sound like the ideal father figure for someone like Amanda, neither does it seem the two get on well at all. He refers to Amanda and Deanna as ‘shitheads’ on his MySpace profile and, according to Nadeau, boasts of getting drunk with one of his stepdaughters. In a translated section of Knox prison diary she says “Obviously, Chris is getting on my nerves because he’s an asshole and so I had to go away.” She also says “I don’t plan on staying to hear that I’m an obtuse retard.”

In the Times interview the family explain the one time Amanda was violent, she broke the nose of a boy who had been picking on her sister Deanna, yet in the same breath Deanna states: “My sister can’t kill a spider. When I’d find a spider in my room I’d tell her ‘Kill it,’ but she would get a glass and take it outside”. Of course her family are the best people to attest to what sort of person Amanda is, yet I find it hard to understand how breaking a boy’s nose, in anger or retaliation is even comparable to killing a spider. I believe that as the DNA evidence indicates Amanda’s presence in the cottage that night and even her holding the knife that killed Meredith, that she was capable of violence. The story about the broken nose is significant; firstly it shows that she is capable of ‘correcting’ a perceived injustice with violence, secondly it indicates that a perceived injustice or sense of frustration may trigger some kind of emotional/anger response in Amanda, hence we could theorise that Meredith angered Amanda or was the subject of her displaced anger. Amanda herself says: “I don’t vent my frustrations on the people I love the most”.

I believe Amanda had been bottling up how she felt about her family for a number of years and probably wanted to escape to Italy in order to be free of the restrictions she faced living near home. It could be argued that this was the worst place for her, as unresolved anger in youth and a complete lack of supervision in a foreign country are unlikely to be a good match.

Where did Meredith fit in?

It’s likely that Amanda was jealous of Meredith, her looks and abilities and may have been overshadowed by her at times. If Amanda was a late bloomer, the novelty of being found attractive by men probably hadn’t worn off when she arrived in Perugia which could explain her sexual escapades. I believe that Meredith represented a lot of things that Amanda came to resent, maybe even loathe. It also seems that Meredith was a very girly girl, the sort that Amanda had found it hard to get on with at school. Meredith was very popular and made friends very easily and she had begun a relationship with Giacomo, one of the boys downstairs who Amanda also confessed to liking. Meredith was also sensible, smart and good with money, was very tidy around the house and possibly nagged Amanda to do more. It does sound as if Meredith had a hard time talking to Amanda about issues that were bothering her and her feelings about these issues may have come out in other ways, she may have looked at Amanda disapprovingly, ignored her or made a sly comment that irked her. Amanda may have thought her prissy, boring or ‘up-herself’ in some way and it does sound like their relationship deteriorated quite quickly.

I believe that Amanda brought quite a bit of displaced anger with her to Perugia in the hope that she could forget or bury the past by having a good time. I believe this anger eventually seeped out and was projected onto Meredith, seemingly for no logical reason whatsoever. I also believe that Amanda had few friends in Perugia and probably only confided in her boyfriend Raffaele who it seems was slightly troubled himself, would he have been the best person to give her advice and comfort, this drug abusing loner who collected knives and whose mother had committed suicide? It seems as if the person Amanda turned to for comfort was the only person who could have made the situation unequivocally worse, especially if Raffaele was infatuated with Knox , he may well have been capable to saying or doing anything to garner her approval or to ‘diffuse’ the situation.

Displaced anger could have lead to the idea of humiliating Meredith, playing a trick on her or even a drug fuelled argument that got out of hand. I still believe it is important to consider the evidence that this was premeditated but this kind of displaced anger could lead to any number of scenarios resulting in this level of violence.