“And late at night whilst on all fours, she used to watch me kiss the floor. What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with this picture?” – Placebo, ‘This Picture’

Imagine you knew nothing about Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito or the brutal murder they are accused of. Take a look at this picture and imagine you were the store owner who saw them in the ‘Bubble’ lingerie shop that day, what do you see?

I see a young couple, kissing and caressing each other and generally acting as if they haven’t a care in the world. I see two people who are deeply sexually attracted to each other and who can’t wait to get home for that ‘hot sex’ the store owner claims he overheard them discussing whilst browsing for and eventually purchasing a camisole and a g-string in his shop. If you imagine they were just another ordinary couple, excited, giggling and petting in your shop you’d be forgiven for muttering about ‘kids these days’ and carrying on with your work, but as Brian Molko would say, what’s wrong with this picture?

24 hours prior to the scenes captured on this CCTV footage, the young couple in the video, had been present when the body of Amanda’s 21 year old housemate Meredith Kercher was discovered in the house they shared with two Italian girls. A few days later the couple were arrested on suspicion of murder and sexual violence.

This picture marks the moment I ‘fell off the fence’ with regard to my own personal views about the the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito who are currently on trial for their part in the sexual assault and murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher.

Meredith’s partially clothed body was found concealed by a duvet on the floor of her bedroom on the 2nd November 2007. The medical examiner determined that before death she had most likely been sexually assaulted (by the now convicted Rudy Guede) and tortured with the blade of a 13.4 inch kitchen knife. Her throat had been savagely cut resulting in a slow and painful death.

Furthermore, the evidence suggests that Meredith had been locked in her room to die; her phones were stolen and thrown in a nearby garden to prevent what could have been her only remaining chance to be saved. The medical examiner Luca Lalli stated in a recent closed hearing that Meredith had in all likelihood been attacked by more than one assailant.

The evidence available so far indicates that one or all of the assailants ensured and took pleasure in Meredith Kercher’s suffering during the humiliating attack that resulted in her tragic death. The victim sustained numerous injuries as she was taunted with the knife, forcibly held and fought for her life. There is no doubt in my mind that the victim suffered a horrifying and sustained attack designed to invoke fear and to humiliate.

Motive and group dynamic

As yet the motive remains unclear. In a previous post I suggested that the murder of Meredith Kercher could be categorised as a sex related homicide and possibly one with a rape and/or sodomy motivation with humiliation and domination as a possible motive. This could fit with any number of scenarios including a premeditated plan to rape and/or kill or a ‘game’ designed to frighten or intimidate Meredith which got out of hand.

Both scenarios can be explained by a possible group dynamic or ‘pack mentality’ leading to the deindividuation of group members that could have resulted in the level of violence that night. This is an important point to consider as neither the convicted Rudy Guede nor the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have a history of violence.

In this post I also discussed possible roles within the group and a hierarchical structure with one or more of the assailants ‘falling into’ their individual role, one restraining the victim, one sexually assaulting her and the other facing the victim and taunting her with the tip of the knife. It seems likely that each individual had their own reasons for taking part in the attack and that certain fantasies or ideas came into play as a result

Despite the theory that a pack mentality resulted in the level of violence that night I also discussed the idea that this ‘group’ in all likelihood had a leader or a ‘puppet master’ pulling the strings and conducting the show, I suggested that this person was in all likelihood the knife wielder. DNA evidence has implicated Amanda Knox in this role.

The idea that there was a more dominant person in the room that night has troubled me, as has the evidence suggesting the apparent excitement of the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the days following the murder, this coupled with the repeated use of the word in many blogs, news reports and forums and has done nothing to dissuade me that there may have been a sadist in the room that night.

The Sadist

Sadism is the act of deriving pleasure (often sexual) from inflicting or watching the suffering, humiliation or pain of others. The spectrum of sadism is wide and ranges from a person who enjoys dominating a willing partner as part of a healthy sexual relationship, to the more severe end of the spectrum which can include the torture, strangulation, rape or murder of an unwilling ‘participant’. Usually the signs of sexual sadism begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Clinicians charged with treating those at the more dangerous and severe end of the spectrum believe that this type of behaviour is usually chronic and increases in severity over time.

Some have theorised that certain individuals may go on to demonstrate sadistic tendencies as the result of a fragile childhood fraught with tension, abuse or violence, it could be argued that the uncertainty or powerlessness felt by these individual during times that are crucial to their individual development, could result in an attempt to compensate by being strong and tough to avoid feeling vulnerable, out of control or abandoned, the construction of these compensating drives could mingle with sexual ideas or fantasies during adolescence and early adulthood. This in turn could lead to a desire to dominate, control or humiliate others and derive sexual pleasure from it.

Research by Grey et al (2003) has indicated that all sorts of people from all walks of life engage in what is sometimes referred to as’ deviant sexual fantasising’, studies have also reported no significant gender differences in the frequency of sadistic sexual fantasies.

Some researchers believe certain childhood indicators could be linked to the development of deviant sexual fantasies in adolescence or early adulthood, some of these indicators include daydreaming, headaches, nightmares, poor body image, phobias and isolation. Behaviour indicators in adolescence and early adulthood include chronic masturbation, chronic lying and rebelliousness.

Some people who experience deviant sexual fantasies can later go on to act upon them, some may do so with a willing partner and some may go on to sexually assault, abuse or even kill. Possible behavioural indicators for sexual murder later in life, outlined by Burgess et al (1986) have also been seen in a non-offending group who also experienced deviant sexual fantasies.

In other words, attempting to pin-point whether deviant sexual fantasising is linked to behavioural clues in childhood or adolescence is too reductionist, people are so different and may go on to act on these sexual fantasies for different reasons and in different ways. It’s not always possible to tell who will act on these fantasies and if they do, who will take them too far and who will enjoy them as part of a healthy sex life.

Indeed, in certain cases it seems that the severity of these types of deviant sexual fantasies only becomes apparent when someone gets hurt or killed. It may also be the case that these fantasies and the desire to act upon them are only awakened upon an encounter or interaction with another human being who is or who the individual believes is a willing ‘partner’ in the fantasy.

Several female killers have reportedly been ‘drawn in’ to the world of BDSM and played along with or shared intimate sexual fantasies with a partner they later assisted in rape and murder. Myra Hindley is one example, Karla Homolka another.

A sadist in the room?

The evidence available so far indicates that the objective of the attack may have been to humiliate, dominate or control Meredith, possibly with the objective of ‘softening her up’ for a sexual assault or rape. Another possibility is the idea that they wanted to frighten Meredith and things got out of hand very quickly, these are just two of a number of scenarios put forward by various individuals following the case as to how the attack came about, but one factor remains constant and unchallengeable; the attack on Meredith was extremely brutal and sadistic.

Evidence of prolonged humiliation/suffering of the victim:

The evidence suggests that during the attack, the victim ceased to be a human being to the assailants and merely became a toy with which to do as they pleased. Evidence suggesting that the victim was subjected to an attack designed to control/dominate/humiliate and/or prolong her fear and suffering includes:

  • Injuries consistent with being forcibly and very roughly restrained
  • Some of the victim’s clothes were removed
  • Evidence of sexual assault (possible rape motive)
  • Knife wounds indicating she was taunted and tortured prior to death
  • Manual strangulation
  • Extremely violent slow and painful death (overkill)
  • The victim was locked away to die alone and in pain
  • The victim was denied any chance to call for help by having her lifeline (the phones) removed

Bruising to the victim’s lips as well as injuries to her neck and throat suggests any pleas and cries for help or mercy went unnoticed or were disregarded. The victim was completely under the control of the assailants. It could be argued that the injuries sustained by the victim increased as a result of her attempting to free herself from their grasp, as the evidence suggests this could be the case it could also be argued that the aim of the attack was to make Meredith submissive to the individual ‘needs’ or ‘desires’ of the group. For Rudy this could have been the desire to have sex with Meredith, for Amanda and Raffaele this could have been the desire to see her humiliated and frightened.

Evidence to suggest the assailants may have derived sexual pleasure from the humiliation and suffering of the victim

The evidence of a group dynamic leading to this level of violence sadly does not surprise me. In many cases of group initiated violence the victim suffers injuries above and beyond what is necessary to kill, this is referred to by law enforcement agencies as overkill. However, one of the most tragic and horrific aspects of this case is the brutal and degrading final hour of Meredith’s life as the result of an act I am convinced was designed and executed to ensure total suffering, control and humiliation, this fact is crucial in terms of understanding the etiology of this crime.

Rudy Guede
Despite having taken part in a brutal and senseless crime against another human being I do not believe Rudy Guede was sexually aroused by what he saw that night, in fact I believe he was sat on the toilet having ‘bottled it’, probably unable to ‘perform’. He did not call for an ambulance; he did not attempt to save the victim instead he ran like a coward, but I suspect that his motivation for running was cowardice rather than the enjoyment of ensuring the victim suffered. Rudy Guede deserves his 30 year sentence and so far he has done nothing to bring closure to the victims long suffering family yet I do not believe he was the instigator or ‘puppet master’ that night. He is to put it plainly, too much of a coward.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito

During the attack
The suspected murder weapon contains Amanda’s DNA on the handle of the knife and the victims DNA on this tip; this suggests that Amanda wielded the knife, tortured and eventually killed Meredith Kercher. The crime reconstruction has suggested that Raffaele restrained Meredith and if this is the case it was he that caused the bruises on her arms and lips as well as the broken hyoid bone in her neck. It could also have been Raffaele that attempted to strangle the victim. The crime reconstruction, supported by forensic evidence, has placed AK and RS firmly at the centre of this crime in an attack designed to ensure Meredith was humiliated, afraid and suffering.

If the motive for the attack was just to frighten Meredith how and why did things go this far? If the motive was to sexually assault the victim why did she sustain injuries consistent with torture? Torturing the victim would have no logical role in either the ‘game’ or the ‘rape’ scenario and therefore we could conclude that the person wielding the knife gained some sort of enjoyment from the reaction of the victim to the injuries being inflicted.

Similarly it seems that the victim was overly and very forcibly restrained. It could be argued that the presence of the knife would have been sufficient to ensure ‘compliance’, Meredith bravely fought for her life and I believe the victim was informed of her imminent ‘fate’ resulting in a struggle and an increase in the level of violence to ensure she was at all times under the assailants control.

The evidence suggests that AK and RS were present when Meredith was sexually assaulted and it could be argued that it was the knowledge of this assault that resulted in the crime scene being staged to look like a rape in order to lead investigators to focus on the evidence they knew would implicate Guede. No DNA evidence has been found which suggests that AK and RS sexually assaulted Meredith but the evidence does suggest they watched. It is certainly possible that they gained some sort of twisted pleasure from watching Meredith suffer this terrible indignity.

After the murder
Following the discovery of the body AK and RS aroused the suspicion of the investigating officers and those close to Meredith by acting inappropriately. Testimony from several of Meredith’s English friends and others has indicated that Amanda and Raffaele displayed overtly sexualised behaviour in the police station following the discovery of the body. They allegedly kissed, cuddled, hugged, whispered and pulled faces at each other, at one point Amanda put her feet on Raffaele and sat on his lap. In the hours following the discovery of the body this behaviour indicates they were in some way aroused.

When one of Meredith’s English friends expressed the wish that Meredith didn’t suffer, Amanda allegedly informed her that Meredith had “f*****g bled to death” before being so kind as to inform the horrified girl that Meredith “would have died slowly and in a lot of pain.” I find it hard to believe that anyone could interpret this statement as anything other than callous and disgusting, given the information we have now and the evidence that suggests her own involvement it seems Amanda may have derived some sort of pleasure from the reaction to it. Amanda seemed excited at the police station and informed another of Meredith’s English friends that she could fill her in on any details she needed to know. Amanda seemed ‘proud of finding the body’ even though the officers later testified she hadn’t been able to see into the room.

The following day the couple were seen in the ‘Bubble’ lingerie store kissing, hugging, petting, laughing and seemingly having a whale of a time. Amanda bought a camisole top and a g-string, they discussed the ‘hot sex’ they were going to have once they got back to Raffaele’s apartment. The store owner clearly thought their conduct in the store that day was suspicious enough to alert the police who catalogued it alongside the mounting circumstantial evidence of inappropriate behaviour.

Two days after the murder Amanda sent an email to 23 of her family and friends making crude references to the blood in the bathroom possibly being from ‘menstrual issues’ Meredith was having, she also discussed how the police had asked her if Meredith liked anal sex and if she ever used Vaseline. I find it hard to believe that these are reasonable things to write under any circumstance and certainly not considering the subject of the email, they are deeply personal and it could be argued that Amanda enjoyed the further indignity to Meredith by sharing it with her friends and family as if it was meaningless gossip.

This callous and sexualised post crime behaviour must have seen particularly chilling when more evidence came to light and the two were arrested.

Sexually Deviant Fantasies?

Amanda’s short story ‘Baby Brother’ contains references to a rapist. She also wrote to a former boyfriend discussing how she wanted to watch and put some porn ‘into practice’ with him. Though the sex with a stranger on a train and the presence of the vibrator in the bathroom seems like ‘nothing’ it does help to paint the picture of a sexually vivacious young woman who quickly began a very intense relationship with a quiet and possibly disturbed young man.

Similarly Raffaele does not appear to be out of the ordinary with regard to his sexual tastes, he was a virgin when he met Amanda who enjoyed violent manga, watched some extreme pornography (what young man hasn’t?) and collected knives, this could have led to some deviant sexual fantasies but as the literature indicates these are perfectly normal for both men and women.

It does seem that AK and RS became sexually obsessed with each other very quickly and upon meeting Amanda allegedly spent virtually every night with him. Though it is not clear what the motive for the attack on Meredith was, it could be suggested that humiliation or a desire to control and inflict suffering was conscious or unconscious factor. They could have shared sexual fantasies or brought out something in each other that they had not acted on previously, had not anticipated or thought they could control.

If this is the case and one or both of the defendants were acting upon dormant sexually deviant fantasies that night it could help to explain the humiliation and suffering Meredith endured and the strange sexualised post crime behaviour that disturbed so many.