The recent 48 Hours mystery show once again attempted to lend credibility to the virtually laughable lone wolf theory. Despite its inaccuracies it seems fairly clear that the friends and family of Amanda Knox in all likelihood encouraged the 48 Hours show to air before the presentation of the crucial DNA evidence shortly to be discussed in court. Timing is after all everything and it may have been the last time anyone would actually take the show seriously, especially considering the main theme of the show boiled down to the simply ludicrous suggestion that Amanda Knox is somehow a victim in this case and the lone wolf theory is still a credible and valid scenario for what happened that night. For those of you who are still unaware of precisely what that means, it is the idea that Rudy Guede scaled a virtually un-climbable wall and crawled in through a window of the cottage in order to sexually assault and murder Meredith Kercher.

Many following the case long ago dismissed the theory as fantasy, even Guede himself who in his statements to police and diaries admits he was not the only person in the cottage that night. Yet we must also consider that this is virtually the only scenario that the defence can now use to exonerate Amanda and Raffaele as they both strenuously deny any involvement in Meredith’s murder. Despite the physical evidence suggesting their possible role, copious amounts of physical evidence of Guede’s involvement was found at the crime scene and a smaller amount of evidence leading to the defendants. The defence maintain this is the result of contamination and the abundance of his fingerprints and DNA suggests Guede and Guede alone killed Meredith. The prosecution allege that both Amanda and Raffaele were present in the cottage the night Meredith was killed and that once Guede had fled, a well organised and methodical clean up took place to conceal any physical evidence linking them to the crime scene. Unsurprisingly plenty of Guede’s DNA and fingerprints were left for investigators to find.

I discussed the lone wolf theory a few months ago, but as I have often found with this case, new information, ideas and personal reflection often encourages me to revisit important areas in more detail or with a slightly different perspective. I have decided to take a fresh look at this theory and explain why it is completely at odds with current psychology research and how evidence available about the set up and implementation of the crime further discredit this theory as a possibility. I have decided to write this at what is possibly the most crucial part of the trial proceeding so far: The presentation of the physical evidence linking Amanda and Raffaele to the murder of Meredith Kercher.

The Organised vs. Disorganised Offender

Although the definition of homicide is reasonably clear cut, the definition of sexual homicide is much more ambiguous. There are several clear differences seen in sexual murders: Firstly the idea that killing itself is sexually arousing, secondly that the murder is carried out in order to cover up a sexual crime and finally that the offence is a homicide that has some sexual component, but in which the exact motivational dynamics remain unclear (Schlesinger, 2007). The latter seems to be the most likely scenario in this case, despite the definition being slight ambiguous it does seem clear that the murder of Meredith Kercher was a sex related homicide, possibly with a rape/sodomy motivation.

According to ‘The Handbook of Psychological Approaches with Violent Offenders’, the organised vs. disorganised crime scene characterisation of sexual homicide offenders provides a useful insight into these types of crime (Ressler et al, 1986). Clues left at the crime scene can often indicate possible personality characteristics or clues about those involved, as can the nature of the offence, the way it was planned and executed.

The organised offender
Crimes committed by an organised offender are often carefully planned and executed, there is often evidence suggesting the offender brought with them items necessary to commit the crime (such as rope or tape to bind and silence the victim), especially those that might ensure they are able to fulfil certain needs or fantasies through the act of committing the crime. There is often evidence of careful planning and as a result these offenders are usually harder to catch as they are careful about leaving trace evidence behind.

The disorganised offender
A disorganised offender on the other hand often leaves a chaotic scene behind with evidence suggesting a spontaneous or unplanned attack with very little prior planning or pre preparation. The staging of a crime scene often occurs as a direct result of a spontaneous disorganised offence and is usually spotted by investigating officers as the resulting scene is conflicted and full of red flags. By their very nature, organised offenders have no need to stage a scene as theoretically they perceive to have prepared sufficiently to avoid detection in other ways. Disorganised offenders will often stage a crime scene to cover the spontaneity of the act and the inevitable fear of being caught.

The murder of Meredith Kercher
The evidence available so far indicates that this was a disorganised offence. The crime scene photos that have been released show a messy and chaotic scene, clothes all over the floor and blood everywhere. Evidence of staging also indicates a disorganised offence as does the alleged clean up attempt. Despite the evidence suggesting a certain amount of premeditation with the murder weapon having been taken from Raffaele’s apartment to the cottage, there is no way of proving that the intention was to kill Meredith with this knife therefore we cannot necessarily conclude this was an organised offence based solely on this information. Similarly, injuries sustained by the victim also suggest she was forcibly held and that some attempt was made to silence her, yet if we are to conclude this was an organised offence, surely the offender would have brought something with which to bind and/or gag the victim?

This does not seem to be the case but rather a spontaneous group attack that resulted in a violent and chaotic murder with a subsequent panicked attempt at concealing the truth about what had happened. This leads me to conclude that the murder of Meredith Kercher is an example of a disorganised sexual homicide. None of the group had any history of violence which can in part be explained by a group dynamic. Unsurprisingly, research indicates that 64% of first time violent sexual homicides can be classified as disorganised.

Further Confusion
Despite certain pieces of evidence suggesting that this was a disorganised offence, there are elements of the crime that do not fit this conclusion. Meredith was almost certainly sexually assaulted whilst she was still alive, an attempt was made to restrain her and evidence from a break down truck driver suggests that Raffaele’s Audi may have been in the driveway of the cottage that night. Sexual assault on a live victim, evidence of restraint and evidence suggesting an offender may have driven to the scene of the crime are all associated with organised offenders. This coupled with the suggestion that the murder weapon may have been taken to the crime scene rather confuses a possible classification of a disorganised offence

As I have said many times with these types of theory and research based pieces, no theory is ever perfect especially one as reductionist as the organised/disorganised offender. This theory has been criticised for these reasons in the past. Despite this, many profilers and police officers find these sorts of classifications useful and can usually see evidence pointing to one type or another.

I believe this theory is perhaps too simplistic as it does not take into account the involvement of one or more persons in a violent sexual homicide. The slight confusion we have already seen in typology and classification of violence, added to this new confusion about whether this was an organised or disorganised offence only serves to encourage my belief that several motives, ideas and schemas about ‘how to humiliate/wind-up/hurt Meredith’ may have come into play that night. I have already suggested the possibility that there may have been a sadist in the room as well as very different motives for each of the individuals involved. The idea that certain elements of the crime are organised whilst others are disorganised not only encourages the idea that more than one person was involved but also suggests that at least one group member was firmly out of the loop.

The Blitz Attack

If Rudy Guede really had been a lone wolf killer, apart from the evidence suggesting that the break in was staged, he would almost certainly be a disorganised offender. Aside from the abundance of his DNA and fingerprints left at the scene, there are certain things we would expect to see from a lone disorganised offender that do not seem to be evident in this case.

Firstly, disorganised offenders often feel inadequate and their attacks are usually sexual in nature. These types of assailants, especially those with the intention of sexually assaulting or raping the victim, will often approach the victim from behind and due to the spontaneous nature of these offences they will usually initiate what’s known as a blitz attack. The blitz attack is primarily concerned with ensuring the victim is unable to resist or fight usually because the offender doubts their own ability to subdue the victim. The most common method of ensuring compliance is to render the victim unconscious. Unfortunately due to the amount of force employed when administering blows to (often) the head, the victim usually suffers horrendous blunt force injuries which more often than not result in serious injury or death. Meredith had no such injuries and any injuries she did sustain came much later than the initial attack.

If we are to conclude that Rudy Guede was a typical lone, first time, disorganised killer we can surely conclude he would have participated in this style of ambush, after all in one study 82% of young offenders who engaged in sexual attacks of this nature did so by initiating a blitz attack on their victims. Similarly the lone wolf theory suggests that Guede climbed through a window in order to access Meredith when he could quite easily have knocked on the door and pounced or at least chosen a method of entry that was easier and less noisy. If we are to accept the lone wolf theory as credible then we must also accept that by climbing through the window, Rudy Guede was aiming to surprise Meredith by initiating an attack to subdue, sexually assault and kill her yet the evidence suggests no such blitz attack ever took place and that the victim was very much conscious throughout most if not all of her ordeal.

The injuries sustained by Meredith are concrete, unchangeable and unchallengeable. These injuries cannot be manipulated or denied to suit. Meredith sustained defensive knife injuries to her hands in what the medical examiner likely concluded was an attempt to fight off an attack from a person standing in front of her brandishing a knife. Victims of disorganised offenders especially those that adopt the element of surprise (as the lone wolf theory suggests by insinuating Rudy climbed through the window), very rarely have defensive injuries suggesting a struggle, Meredith had several including various bruises.

Similarly research about these types of offenders indicates they often mutilate the victim by cutting or slashing the breasts, face, abdomen and genital area. Meredith sustained no post mortem mutilation. These types of offenders will often sexually assault or rape the victim after death, the medical examiner has stated he believes Meredith was in all likelihood sexually assaulted before she was seriously injured and later killed, this itself indicates some kind of restraint would have been necessary,yet this type of behaviour is not associated with disorganised offenders. The victims of certain sexual homicides often suffer injuries consistent with those found on Meredith’s body, injuries such as evidence of manual strangulation and those consistent with overkill, yet the injuries sustained by the victim do not fit the current theory of what we would expect to find in a lone, first time disorganised offender like Rudy Guede also he had no history of violence.

The crime reconstruction and evidence from injuries sustained by the victim suggests she was ambushed rather than blitzed. This in itself could suggest a planned attack, a sudden burst of ‘group’ anger or an escalation of a previously planned event.

I have previously spoken about how three people with no history of violence could easily be just as, if not more violent than a single individual with a history of violence. I still maintain that Rudy Guede would be extremely unlikely to commit this sort of violent offence alone and without provocation or consultation with anyone else. The same questions remain, why did he choose Meredith? How did he know she would be alone?

These are all questions that are never likely to be answered. This theory quite simply does not fit. It will never fit because it didn’t actually happen and insinuating that it did not only makes the 48 hours show and everyone associated with it look incredibly stupid, it also attempts to challenge an awful lot of literature and an awful lot of people, much smarter and more knowledgeable than I that will tell you exactly the same thing. Rudy Guede has not, will not and will never be proven a lone wolf killer.

A Toilet Break?

If we are to believe that Rudy Guede was a lone wolf, so overcome by lust for Meredith he broke into her house in order to rape and or kill her then we’d have almost certainly seen further evidence of sexual activity. So far the sexual assault Meredith suffered seemed to have been abandoned at some point, a point I believe Rudy ‘bottled it’ and, possibly due to excitement, fear or drugs, headed for the toilet. These sorts of actions in a lone offender do not make sense. Something spooked him that’s for sure and if he had been a lone offender there is absolutely no way he’d have left his victim in a position to escape or alert the police by going to the toilet in the middle of the attack.

Rudy admits to being at the cottage the night Meredith was killed and maintains he was on the toilet after eating a spicy Kebab when someone came into the house and stabbed Meredith. He claims to have tried to help her and then became scared and ran away. I don’t need to tell you that most of this story is what one judge accurately described as a ‘highly improbable fantasy’ yet his faeces was found in the toilet the next day indicating that he had at some point gone to the toilet. Some people believe that Rudy Guede’s version of events, despite being absurd do actually have some basis in truth as he has the awful habit of attempting to explain away things he knows the investigating officers can incriminate him with.

Like the faeces he left in the toilet for example. Rudy’s own version of events actually explains that he rushed off the toilet, had a confrontation with the killer and tried to help Meredith by stemming the flow of blood with towels, allegedly two blood soaked towels were found at the crime scene. With this in mind we could consider that Rudy became overly excited or scared during the attack, resulting in the need to visit the toilet, we could also suggest he was in the toilet before Meredith was killed. It seems highly likely that as the faeces was found in the toilet and Rudy attempted to explain it that he actually used the bathroom before Meredith was killed and certainly before he fled the cottage, after all I doubt he would hang around to use the loo after the piercing scream and the resulting knife wound, as Brian S explains in his theory, probably caused them all to flee. If the lone wolf theory is to be believed, doesn’t it seem a bit odd that Guede would be sat on the loo whilst the victim was left to her own devices? I think a far more likely scenario is that Guede was not alone in the cottage that night, Amanda and Raffaele were ‘taking care of Meredith’ while he dashed to the loo.

The Neck

I am still struggling to understand exactly how all three came to be present in the cottage that night and the exact sequence of events that led to the attack on Meredith. Arnold Layne recently put forward an excellent possible scenario as did Brian S, both can be found on TJMK.

Some evidence such as the knife and possibly Raffaele’s car in the driveway suggests an element of planning, yet other factors suggest it was anything but, as the crime itself seems rather disorganised. There certainly seem to be a number of fantasies coming through, specifically hinting at one or more of those involved gaining some kind of enjoyment in watching the victim suffer and, due to the nature of the injuries some possible fantasies linked to the victims neck.

Meredith sustained several neck injuries consistent with being manually strangled, cut with a knife before being fatally stabbed. The crime reconstruction has one of the defendants holding Meredith from behind, the other to the side holding her head up and exposing the neck with the third member of the group attacking with the knife.

So what is this apparent fascination with the neck? If they’d wanted to ensure the victim did not scream why not attempt to use a rudimentary gag such as a cloth or a sock? Though many have suggested that the neck injuries were specifically inflicted to ensure the victim didn’t scream it could (and this is where it gets pretty distressing) also be suggested that the attackers wanted to hear poor Meredith plead and beg for her life, they probably hadn’t counted on her screaming.

Any sex related homicide will usually reveal something that has a special kind of significance for the killer. I believe this may have been Meredith’s neck. They could have silenced her in any number of ways yet I believe they chose not to and underestimated her capacity to scream, it was in all likelihood her final scream, heard by a witness, that may have encouraged the fatal ‘panic blow’. It could be suggested that as this was possibly a panic blow, that the offenders had not yet finished ‘playing’ with Meredith, her final scream may have sadly sealed her fate but also ensured her suffering was not prolonged further.

Before she was fatally injured the medical examiner also determined that Meredith had been strangled. This attempt was clearly unsuccessful. According to this report:

“Only eleven pounds of pressure placed on both carotid arteries for ten seconds is necessary to cause unconsciousness.4 How-ever, if pressure is released immediately, consciousness will be regained within ten seconds. To completely close off the trachea, three times as much pressure (33 lbs.) is required. Brain death will occur in 4 to 5 minutes, if strangulation persists”

As Meredith was still very much alive when she was stabbed it could be suggested that whoever tried to strangle her, could not complete the act or believed they already had. Strangulation is more closely associated with sexual homicide than other injuries present. Most offenders who engage in strangulation apply the wrong type of pressure, use an incorrect and not yet perfected ‘technique’ especially if they are using their hands, I can imagine it’s very difficult to strangle someone if you don’t know what you are doing and especially if they are kicking and resisting. Meredith may have temporarily lost conscious, regained it and attempted to break free. This may have been the critical moment when the assailants decided to fatally injure her with the knife but not before she was taunted viciously.

Evidence available about the manner in which Meredith died suggests not only a vicious group attack but an apparent fascination with a specific area of her body upon which she sustained injuries above and beyond what was necessary to subdue or kill. This apparent fascination with Meredith’s neck could indicate the role of certain fantasies or schemas about ‘how to kill someone’. It seems odd that the assailants specifically chose to focus on her neck, after all stab wounds to the heart or abdomen are just as fatal. What was it about Meredith’s neck that provoked the injuries she sustained? I’m afraid we will never know but it is an important point to consider especially if we are to conclude that sexual fantasy may have played a role in her death.

The Two Stages of the Motive

If we consider that the murder itself was not premeditated we could also consider the motive in two different stages, this is not to suggest they are not inextricably linked as they inevitably are, however it’s a lot harder to consider the motive for the murder when attempting to understand not only the complex group dynamic but the crime as a whole. The initial motive for the attack on Meredith is still unclear. It may seem difficult to separate these two but when we do it becomes a little easier to understand.

At some stage and for whatever reason Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede ended up at 7 Via Della Pergola. They may have been high, they may have been sober or they may have intended to scare Meredith, initiate a group sex activity, even commit an act of violence. Though it may seem ridiculous to suggest this is unimportant, it really is the case. The crime scene evidence suggests the involvement of all three and though clarity and closure for the family would be ideal I fear we will never really know how or why this attack started. So it follows that we must study the trail of evidence left both at the crime scene and on the victim’s body itself. The evidence put forward so far suggests that if the plan was not to kill Meredith that night that the motive of the group may have suddenly changed at a critical point.

At one point the motive of the group changed and although the motive for the initial attack seems unclear, the motive for the later stage of the attack is not. At one point it changed from the sexual assault, argument or game, to killing Meredith.

This became the primary motive of one or all members of the group, why else would Meredith have been so viciously strangled? Why did this not kill her? Why was the attempt at strangulation abandoned in favour of the more intrusive method which caused the injury she sustained to the neck that later caused her death? Why were the group so determined to kill Meredith Kercher?

That part at least is probably easily explainable. She knew them, she could identify them and the attack had already gone so far they knew that letting her get out alive would almost certainly mean serving a long jail sentence. They decided to silence her forever. They cut her throat, took her mobile phones, locked her in her bedroom and left her to die. Later having realised the chaos and incriminating evidence left behind, two of them returned to begin the clean-up and staging of the crime scene, the other went to dance the night away.

This is why, with the evidence available so far that I believe the right people are on trial for their role in the senseless and brutal murder of Meredith Kercher. If any of you are coming here for the first time having watched the 48 hours show I implore you to seek out more information. The show barely touched the surface of how brutal and cruel the murder of poor Meredith actually was and hopefully with the aid of a little psychology theory I have successfully achieved my objective of showing how, aside from merely the physical evidence suggesting it is in fact an impossible scenario, the lone wolf theory has no credibility and doesn’t make any sense in the real world.

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“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.

In writing this post I’d like to extend my gratitude to Stuarthome2000, the thoughtful citizen of Perugia who has kindly given up his valuable time to provide all TJMK and PMF readers with factual and up to date information from the courtroom. There is a great deal of detail in his reports, detail that would probably not be found in newspapers who merely sum up the most dramatic events of the day, nor would they be found in one particular blog from a ‘reporter’ who claims to be objectively blogging about the case from his courtroom seat.

The Witnesses

I have written a quick rundown of the witnesses and their testimony from last weekend’s trial dates, more information and detail from Stuarthome2000’s fantastic posts on Friday and Saturday’s trial dates can be found at True Justice for Meredith Kercher

Friday the 27th March:
Saw testimony from Nara Capezzali the 69 year old widow who reported getting up to go to the bathroom on the night of the murder at around 11 or 11.30pm and hearing a chilling and disturbing scream coming from the cottage. A few minutes later she reported hearing the sounds of at least two people running in different directions. Ms Capezzali reported hearing the sound of footsteps on the metal stairs next to the parking facility outside her apartment; she also reported hearing footsteps on the pavement below and rustling in some nearby bushes. Ms Capezzali recalled being so disturbed by the scream that she was unable to sleep that night. She made herself some camomile tea before finally settling down in the early hours of the morning. Similarly, Maria Luisa Dramis reported hearing someone running up or down her street on the night of the murder at around 11 or 11.30pm. Antonella Morlacchia who lives in an apartment with a clear view of the cottage reported hearing a man and a woman arguing at around 10pm on the night of the murder.

The court also heard from Giampaolo Lombardi, the tow truck driver seen by alleged ‘super witness’ Hekuran Kokomani on the night of the murder. Lombardi testified as to having seen a dark coloured car parked in the driveway of the cottage that night, the prosecution alleges this is significant as the defendant Raffaele Sollecito drove a dark coloured Audi. The testimony of the witnesses Francesco Tavernese, Leonardo Fazio, and Antonio Galizzi were concerned with the character of Raffaele Sollecito, his time in the ONASI student centre in Perugia and his conduct in his hometown of Bari in Southern Italy. This testimony revealed that RS was shy and bashful, enjoyed kickboxing and was once arrested for possession of hashish, however drug searches in his halls of residence found nothing except for some pornography that ranged in taste from ‘normal’ to ‘extreme’.

The testimony of Leonardo Fazio, a friend of RS at the ONASI student centre corroborated the assertion that RS is shy and liked to visit the gym. Fazio also stated that he had seen RS and his co-defendant Amanda Knox in the days following the murder acting normally as if nothing had happened. This seems to both corroborate and refute testimony from Meredith’s English friends who remember Amanda and Raffaele acting ‘oddly’ at the police station after the body had been found, though it could be stated that Amanda and Raffaele behaved  like a ‘normal’ couple following the murder by kissing and petting outside the house and in the police station, going for a pizza, flirting with each other and making, for want of a better word, a ‘scene’ in a local lingerie shop, we could also conclude that AK and RS behaved anything other than normal following the murder by acting cold, distant and so strangely that it immediately roused the suspicion of people close to Meredith and investigating officers who quickly began covert surveillance of them.

Saturday the 28th March:
Saw impressive and potentially damning testimony from Antonio Curatolo the 53 year old homeless man who spends a lot of time in Piazza Grimana which has a good view of the gate leading to the cottage. His testimony was supposedly clear and concise; it appears that Curatolo is no fool and that he definitely knows what he saw. Curatolo claims he saw a man and a woman in Piazza Grimana at around 9.30 or 10pm on the night Meredith was murdered. When asked to describe the couple he pointed at Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. He stated that they may have left the Piazza at around 11-11.30pm but definitely returned before midnight. Curatolo stated that he saw RS looking towards the gate leading to the cottage where Meredith was killed. According to a report from Ann Wise, Curatolo also claims to have seen the couple talking animatedly. Curatolo’s testimony is crucial as it places Knox and Sollecito in the vicinity of the cottage on the night of the murder when they have both claimed to be at RS’s apartment. Amanda’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga made a statement to reporters alleging that Amanda was unhappy with Curatolo’s testimony he said: “Amanda was not happy with what Curatolo had to say, because she was not there that night”, funny then that she chose not to rise and refute the testimony of this key witness by addressing the court as she is legally entitled to do under Italian law.

Raffaele Sollecito however, did address the court in response to testimony from Fabrizio Giofreddi who claims to have seen Knox, Sollecito, the victim and he alleges, with 99% certainty, Rudy Guede leaving the cottage together on the 30th October 2007. Sollecito firmly stated to the court that this witness could not have seen the four together as he had never met Rudy Guede.

The court also heard from the hugely criticised and reportedly unreliable ‘super witness’ Hekuran Kokomani who claims to have driven up to Amanda and Raffaele who were lying in the road outside the cottage on the night of the murder. Kokomani claims to have had an altercation with RS and also claims that Amanda pulled out a large knife, raised it above her head and began cursing him in Italian, he then claims to have thrown some black olives and an old Nokia phone at Amanda before taking a picture of her and RS which he later deleted, he then claims to have bumped into Rudy Guede who told him that the knife in Amanda’s hand had been used to cut the cake at a ‘party’ in the cottage. Kokomani is currently being held on drugs charges after 8 grams of cocaine were found in his house. His testimony was reportedly all over the place and it probably didn’t impress the jury and it also seems that the witness may have been talking about the night of the 31st October 2007 and not the night of the murder. Antonio Aiello, Kokomani’s lawyer took the stand to state that Kokomani had contacted him with regard to what he had seen, Kokomani agreed that his tale could wait until the lawyer returned from his holiday. Upon his return Aiello agreed to accompany Kokomani to the police station to make his statement and admitted that even he did not really understand what Kokomani claims to have seen.

The witnesses summarised
So in short we have three witnesses that claim to have heard unusual sounds coming from the direction of the cottage on the night of the murder we also have three witnesses that report seeing the defendants or a car potentially belonging to one of them in the vicinity of the cottage that night, this is damaging as they both claim to have been at RS’s apartment all night. We also have a witness that claims to have seen RS, AK, RG and the victim together two days before Meredith was killed.  Both defendants deny ever meeting or socialising with Rudy Guede. This testimony seems to refute previous testimony from Meredith’s English friends who had never seen them together or heard her mention his name.

On a little side note I find it interesting that two witnesses stated that RS was sporty, one stated that he enjoyed kickboxing. If RS was fit and did kickboxing why then does he say he wasn’t strong enough to break down Meredith’s door when she didn’t respond? So either we have a regular gym goer and a kick boxer who couldn’t break down a door (despite another young man on the scene being able to do so) or we have yet another big fib from Raffaele.

But how reliable are these witnesses? It seems that their testimony is crucial to the prosecution’s case against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. Does their testimony tell us anything about what happened that night or have any implications for our understanding of the crime?

Eyewitness Testimony

The reliability of eyewitness testimony has long been debated amongst psychologists and the general consensus is that eyewitnesses, on the whole either believe they have seen more than they actually have or deny what they have seen is important or relevant. Some of the factors involved in determining the reliability of a witness include:

  • Age (children are much less reliable than adults as witnesses)
  • Mental competency
  • Level of intoxication at the time of the ‘incident’
  • Drug/alcohol dependency
  • Eye sight/hearing or whether the ‘incident’ was obstructed from view
  • Weapon focus
  • Trauma
  • Attention i.e. how much they were focusing on what they were doing at the time the ‘incident’ occurred.

What took them so long?

Good defence lawyers like Giulia Buongiorno sometimes make mincemeat out of witnesses and often attempt to do so because they know that psychology research has picked several gaping holes in the reliability of eyewitness testimony. One of the points that a good defence lawyer will use in an attempt to discredit the witness is the length of time it took for the witness to make a statement to the police with information that later forms the basis of their court testimony, it is important that the witness is interviewed according to correct procedure and that they are clear of all details related to the statement which may be relevant upon cross examination by defence lawyers.

Investigators must be careful not to lead the witness during the initial interview (and in court) as this can encourage false memory ‘reconstruction’ whereby details are altered or added to the original story through suggestion by the interviewer, these details may be false or misleading. Some witnesses are more ‘suggestible’ than others, especially if they have a great deal of respect for the police or are trying to please investigating officers. The interviewer must strike an appropriate balance between encouraging the witness to think back and remember as much detail as they can and pressing them on issues which the interviewer believes may be crucial to the investigation. It’s a very fine balance and unfortunately, interviewers often get it wrong.

During last Friday’s hearing, Buongiorno fiercely grilled the 69 year old widow Nara Capezzali as to why it had taken her 20 days to come forward with information about what she had heard that night. From her window Ms Capezzali saw the arrival of the police and the crime scene investigators and was told about the murder at a magazine kiosk in Piazza Grimana the next day. Buongiorno grilled Ms Capezzali so hard about not coming forward sooner and not mentioning that she had drank a cup of chamomile tea to settle her down in her original statement, that Ms Capezzali began to cry in court possibly through frustration or intimidation. Ms Capezzali reiterated that what she heard that night was reliable and true as it had upset her. This may have impacted upon the jury who could either perceive her as being too ‘old and scatty’ to be reliable or it, more likely may have evoked a certain degree of sympathy which may ensure her testimony is well remembered and considered by the jury.

During a trial as high profile and with as much information as this, the jury are literally bombarded with information, information they are expected to remember and consider over a long period of time. The trial began on the 16th January 2009 and is expected to continue until at least the autumn, it may even continue into 2010 and it is important for both the prosecution and the defence to make an equal impact upon the jury. Nara Capezzali’s tears are sure to be remembered, as is the laugher that Stuarthome2000 reported, resulting from a big presumption made by Giulia Buongiorno as to how homeless Curatolo could have possibly known it was 9.30pm when he saw Amanda and Raffaele in Piazza Grimana, his response? “Because the sign next to the piazza has a digital clock”, he also added “and I have a watch”. Buongiorno must have been furious with herself for making the ridiculous assumption that Curatolo could not or did not have the means to tell the time and I have no doubt that the resulting laughter from this presumptuous slip-up will play a small part in ensuring the jury remember the crucial testimony of Antonio Curatolo.

Witnesses Fabrizio Giofreddi and Antonella Morlacchia were both asked why it took so long for them to come forward with the information that formed the basis of their testimony. Giofreddi stated that he was not following the case and as such had no idea it would be relevant, fortunately he told his Spanish professor what he had seen who encouraged him to go to the police. Similarly, Antonella Morlacchia did not think what she had heard was relevant either but was also encouraged to go to the police upon talking to one of her friends who happened to be a journalist.

Supposed ‘super witness’ Hekuran Kokomani was reluctant to talk to police until he had consulted his lawyer Antonio Aiello who later accompanied him to the police station to make a statement. Since he has now been arrested for possession of cocaine it would be fairly safe to assume that Kokomani was reluctant to share what he had seen for reasons much different to the other witnesses.

Factors involved in a witness coming forward with information relevant to a serious crime investigation

There many factors involved when a witness debates whether or not to go to the police with information relevant to a criminal investigation, aside from a witness not realising the importance of the information because they have not been following the investigation in the papers or on the TV, some of these factors can include:

Fear of wasting police time, not being believed or that information is irrelevant
A lot has been made of ‘wasting police time’ and older people in particular are more likely to deny the importance of what they have seen, this may be because some older people perceive they would be wasting the time of the authorities by coming forward with details about what they have seen or heard, thinking their information is ‘irrelevant’ or ‘nothing’. As a result of this some (particularly older) witnesses like Nara Capezzali are reluctant to come forward and share with police what they have seen or heard possibly due to a belief that as they are old their memory will be deemed unreliable, often these older witnesses are sharp and observant, especially if they live alone and spend a great deal of time looking out of the window or ‘snooping’ through the curtains. Older witnesses are often good time keepers and have a reasonably good memory, unless they have a condition which influences their memory or mental state. Sadly they are the often ones least likely to come forward, sometimes through a fear of wasting police time or not being believed. They may also be nervous about giving testimony or frightened of retaliation for doing so.

Fear of the police
In the same way that some witnesses have a lot of respect for, or are overly keen to help the police some are quite literally terrified at the very thought of having anything to do with the police or helping with a criminal investigation. This could be because they are involved in criminal activity, take illegal drugs, have been in trouble with the police themselves or have had a negative experience with the police in the past for whatever reason. Hekuran Kokomani was in all likelihood reluctant to go to the police as the discovery of 8 grams of cocaine in his house indicates he was either a heavy user or a small time drug dealer. Bringing his lawyer to the police station also indicates that Kokomani had a certain level of paranoia about law enforcement officials and associated being at the police station with needing to have a lawyer present. Though his testimony was disjointed and bizarre, Kokomani originally reported seeing the breakdown truck and his cell phone was pinged in the vicinity on the nights of the 31st October and 1st November, despite this I believe the jury will have trouble believing his testimony as it quite frankly seems too unlikely and too disjointed to be true, it also sounds as if Kokomani has attempted to weave into his ‘story’ certain facts that later became apparent, such as the presence of the knife he claims he saw in the newspaper. As Kokomani waited until his lawyer returned before making his statement he could have read a lot about the case and may have inserted a few extra details in order that his story sound more ‘believable’.  It will be interesting to keep an eye on developments surrounding Kokomani’s drug use/possible dealing as his presence near the cottage on the night of the murder or the night of Halloween could be relevant to the case. Similarly, as a homeless man, Curatolo may have been wary of the police or had dealings with them in the past yet I believe his decision to testify “because it is a question of conscience” makes him a more reliable and honest witness.

Bystander Effect
In areas that are quite densely populated it is common to see a kind of diffusion of responsibility in witness reporting. Some witnesses mistakenly believe that someone else must have heard what they heard or saw what they saw and will report it to the police instead. Some people do not go to the police under the mistaken belief that someone else already has or will! A tragic example of this is the murder of Kitty Genovese. It may well have been that someone else in the apartments above the cottage heard or saw something that night and didn’t come forward for this very reason.

Reliability of Witness Testimony

For the reasons listed above I believe it is unfair simply to criticise or discount the reliability of the witness testimony seen over the weekend solely on how long it took the witness to come forward with the information relevant to the investigation. However, the amount of time taken to come forward with this information could have had an effect on the ability of the witness to accurately recall specific details, as may the way they were interviewed and the questions they were asked when making the initial statement.

A number of the witnesses did not come forward until well after the crime had been committed yet some of them explained that they not feel their testimony was important or relevant to the case. These witnesses were encouraged by others who, upon hearing about what the witness had seen or heard promptly told them to go to the police, which they did. If the witnesses genuinely believed they had heard nothing or the defence claim they cannot possibly remember due to the passing of time, why then do several of the witnesses claim to have accurately remembered what they saw or heard up to a year after the murder was committed? This may in part be explained by the news of the murder spreading through Perugia which may have cemented in the witness’s minds the things they saw or heard on the days leading up to and the night of the murder. Some of these witnesses remembered enough to tell a friend what they had seen, why then should we discount them by assuming they cannot tell the court the same thing?

In a previous post I discussed how Knox and Sollecito’s claim to have been so stoned on the night of the murder they cannot remember what happened could affect their long term memory recall of the night in question; this could influence a witness in the same way. If a witness decided their testimony was not important or relevant they may cast it aside and this action may influence subsequent memory recall and be clouded over time. Similarly, a witness in their desire to help the police or be involved in the investigation may be open to suggestion or leading questions that could alter or obscure what they really saw on the night in question.

As Curatolo was homeless he may have spent a great deal of time ‘people watching’ or just watching the world go by, I’d be willing to bet that he has seen a thing or two around Perugia and has a good memory for people and places. He may or may not have been in trouble with the police but we could suggest that Curatolo has no particular allegiance with them either. Because of this he would be less likely to try and ‘please’ them with what they want him to have seen in favour of testifying to what he actually saw: Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in Piazza Grimana looking towards the cottage where Meredith Kercher was murdered on the night of the 1st November 2007, when both defendants have claimed to be elsewhere.

Aside from Antonio Curatolo, one specific witness the court has seen so far which has stuck in my mind is Marc Quintovalle, the shop owner who testified as to having seen Amanda Knox in his shop early in the morning before the body of Meredith Kercher was discovered later that afternoon, this testimony is crucial as Knox claims to have been in bed with Sollecito at the time. Knox did not choose to stand and refute the testimony given by Mr Quintovalle. Quintovalle remembered Knox’s distinctive features and all but stated he found the defendant attractive to the court. I believe that his mild attraction to Knox and in particular her distinctive blue eyes coupled with the events that unfolded later that day cemented in his mind the brief meeting her had with her in his shop that morning.

Some Ideas and Conclusions

Though the witness testimony we have seen so far could in certain instances be unreliable and on its own should not form the basis for a case, it does help to put the events of the evening in some sort of context. It also helps with establishing the timeline of events that night and gives some sort of human ‘face’ to the evidence.

It has been noted that Amanda in particular has not stood and addressed the court as she is entitled to do in defence of testimony from various witnesses that place her outside RS’s apartment on the night of the murder, something a jury would expect her to do should she disagree with the testimony of the witness. As a result of this the jury may conclude that her reluctance to refute this testimony implies she does not dispute it’s reliability, which in turn implies she was not at the apartment with RS as she claims.

With regard to how long it took some of the witnesses to come forward I would agree that in most cases this may influence memory recall of the event, however the witness testimony we have seen so far (with the exception of Kokomani) has been received well, has showed continuity and has in certain cases refuted the defendants weak alibi as to their actions and whereabouts on the night in question.

It does matter when the witnesses decided to come forward and that will influence the reliability of their testimony, however at this important stage of the trial, the witnesses are not really contradicting themselves and bear in mind they are often being cross-examined by the ruthless and probably terrifying Buongiorno if and when they do, this is in stark contrast to Amanda and Raffaele who have contradicted themselves many times and will continue to do so until they start telling the truth.

The murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher is amongst the most sadistically executed crimes I have ever come across. Despite loud protests from the defendants supporters who, by criticising the investigation and judicial process, seek to nullify the evidence put forward so far, this crime is and will remain a fascinating example of group violence.

Psychologists have been studying the behaviour of groups for decades and this has not been without its fair share of criticism. Early studies from eminent psychologists like Prof Philip Zimbardo have cemented ethical restrictions and guidelines on psychology research in the hope that any mistakes made by psychologists in the past will not be replicated at the expense of willing participants in the future. Unfortunately, a lot of current social, clinical and forensic psychology research on, particularly group behaviour, is based in part on instances of group violence where the ‘participant’ was anything other than willing.

When I first started reading about this case, even before I’d come across TJMK, PMF or Perugia Shock, before I knew anything concrete about the defendants post crime behaviour or had access to information that has now confirmed my suspicion, I remember my immediate thought being: more than one person was involved in this. I am and have always been of the opinion that this crime makes absolutely no sense as a single perpetrator offence; indeed one of the things that stumped me from the beginning was the lack of evidence of any kind of history of violence in any of the accused, this is in part explained by the evidence of a group dynamic which could have contributed to the level of violence in the house that night.

If we exclude the involvement of the defendants Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, the likelihood of seeing this level of violence as a first offence, especially coupled with the suggestion that Rudy Guede was originally there to steal, would all but evaporate.

Concerning Rudy Guede as a lone wolf killer

As I discussed in a previous post, the murder of Meredith Kercher can be classified as a sex related homicide. I spend a great deal of time reading literature relevant to these sorts of cases in order that I can better understand the types of people that commit violent sexual homicides and their reasons for doing so. According to a research article published in the American Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 82% of those who commit violent sexual homicides have a history of violent offences; many of them have already served time for sexual assault, GBH, armed robbery etc.

Guede had no history of violence in fact he had no record at all, not even for drug dealing as was previously thought. According to the same research article, murders committed by offenders with no history of violent behaviour are usually crimes of passion or the result of a mis/undiagnosed mental health problem. Guede did not know Meredith; Guede had no reason to go to the cottage alone, he was not in a relationship with her, in fact the two probably never even spoke and if they did the conversation probably wouldn’t have lasted more than ten seconds. Crime of passion? I think not.

Likewise with mental illness, the sorts of mental health problems that can lead to these kinds of spontaneous violent offences are often serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia and other delusional disorders; they are often debilitating and require ongoing medical treatment and assessment. Guede had friends and acquaintances and what appeared to be a fairly active social life in Perugia, if he had been delusional or ‘hearing voices’ I’m fairly sure it would have been noted by now and the defence teams for Amanda and Raffaele would have picked up on it in an instant. Similarly, if Guede had any kind of serious or debilitating mental health condition it would almost certainly have been a factor in the sentencing report and his competency to stand trial would have been called into question. This was not the case and the evidence available so far indicates that Guede was competent to stand trial and therefore it can be assumed he is able to understand right and wrong and with it, the implications of his actions that night. I see no evidence to suggest he is mentally ill.

Balance of probability

Though it is not completely unheard of for an individual with no history of violent behaviour to commit violent sexual homicide, these cases are nearly always crimes of passion or result from the actions of a person with serious untreated mental health problems, this is well supported by research in internationally renowned journals on forensic psychology and psychiatry.

Those who support the FOA and criticise the investigation are welcome to do so but continuing to assert supreme confidence in the lone wolf theory attempts to challenge pretty much every single piece of forensic literature on violent offenders there is. This has not been an easy task, which is why, rather than discussing case scenarios on these blogs, those who have ‘burdened’ themselves with the enormous task of challenging every bit of evidence against Amanda and Raffaele with the unparalleled arrogance and blatant assumption that: “everyone else is wrong  or lying and we are right, evidence doesn’t matter or doesn’t exist because we don’t want it to or because we don’t have an explanation for it, therefore it’s wrong, wrong, wrong and so are you!”

Oddly enough this strategy isn’t doing the defendants any favours, it might work online but it won’t work in the place that really matters: court. This is why these blogs have been confined to discussing the specific wording of the text message written by Amanda Knox to Patrick Lumumba on the night of the 1st of November 2007, which, despite being ever so slightly case relevant, does not change or alter the FACT that Amanda Knox falsely implicated Patrick Lumumba in the murder of Meredith Kercher for which he subsequently spent two weeks in jail and is now suing her for slander. Neither does endlessly discussing whether or not Amanda Knox was hit on the back of the head change or alter the FACT that there is DNA evidence linking her and Raffaele Sollecito to the crime scene, this is why both are on trial to determine their individual level of involvement in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

The lone wolf theory can be disbanded simply with a balance of probability. What are the chances of Rudy Guede, a young man with no history of violence, no criminal record and no recorded drug problem deciding to randomly go to the house of a girl he barely knew (or did not know at all) in order to sexually assault and kill her? What are the chances of him scaling a wall in order to break into the apartment when other points of entry would have been easier? What are the chances of him selecting that house to burgle if this was his primary motivation? What are the chances of him, independently and without consultation from the defendants or anyone else with access to this type of knowledge, knowing that Meredith Kercher would be home alone on the night of the 1st November 2007?

Then compare that with the chances of two young people being involved, both of whom knew Meredith. Amanda knew her well and lived with her. Amanda also had a key to the cottage that night and knew Meredith would be home alone. Amanda may have had a problem with anger and possibly projected this onto Meredith; she may have even hated her and there was tension between them. Then add to the equation Raffaele, a rich, spoiled kid with a major drug problem, an extensive knife collection and a penchant for violent Japanese manga comics. He lived just around the corner from Guede and could have known him or met him briefly, Amanda knew Rudy through the boys in the downstairs apartment. Even if we ignore the DNA evidence, the injuries sustained by the victim, the staging and the clean-up, the involvement of these two in addition to Guede makes a lot more sense and on a balance of probability is far more credible than any kind of lone wolf killer. Plus, the police investigating the murder had cottoned on to the odd behaviour of Amanda and Raffaele before they arrested or suspected anyone else’s involvement.

This circumstantial evidence, coupled with reliable DNA evidence which includes Raffaele’s DNA on a bra strap in a room he supposedly never entered, a knife found at Raffaele’s house, a place Meredith had never been, with Amanda’s DNA on the handle and the victims on the tip, coupled with the lies and the defendants complete lack of an alibi for their actions and whereabouts on the night of the murder really doesn’t bode well at all. How the three ended up in the room is interesting but essentially incidental, DNA evidence places all three at the scene.

Group Theory

At this point you may be wondering how Rudy’s lack of violent history is seemingly more important than Amanda and Raffaele’s, indeed you would be correct in the assumption that they are all just as unlikely candidates for a lone wolf killer as each other, but the point is, neither of them were lone wolf killers, there were in effect all part of a ‘gang’ and as such, their actions and behaviour would have been decidedly different.

There have only ever really been a handful of theories about who was present that night and the only one that suggests the crime was committed by Guede alone has already been discredited, even by Guede himself who is now claiming (whether we believe him or not) that he was not the only person in the house with Meredith that night. Guede was indisputably present in the cottage but has now claimed in his recent appeal that he was on the toilet at the time of the fatal knife wound resulting from an attack which began as the result of a row between Amanda and Meredith over stolen rent money.  At this point in time and with the evidence available so far, it is pretty clear that Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede were all present in the house that night and all took part in the sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher. This in itself suggests a gang attack which, according to current theory on group violence could explain how three people with no history of violence could attack and kill a young woman in such a brutal way and then refuse to say a single word to implicate the other during the investigation, probably in order to ensure that in keeping this pact of silence they would not implicate themselves.

Evidence suggesting group attack/behaviour and ‘team work’

Crime Reconstruction

The evidence available so far indicates that Meredith was attacked by three people. She had 47 separate injuries on her body when she died; some were consistent with being forcibly held by her arms, whilst someone taunted her with the blade of a knife. Reconstruction of the attack places Guede behind Meredith sexually assaulting her, Raffaele to the side restraining her and Amanda facing the victim with the knife. Guede’s DNA found inside the victim, bruises on the victims arms and the DNA found on the knife supports this reconstruction. The reconstruction of the crime scene implies each individual had a ‘role’ in the attack which is indicative of a group/pack mentality.

Clean up and staging
The evidence suggests that the crime scene was staged; to suggest a burglary and a rape had taken place. Amanda and Raffaele have been charged with altering a crime scene. Rudy Guede was seen in town by a number of witnesses whilst the staging and extensive cleanup of the cottage was taking place. The clean up was good, but not good enough, DNA evidence implicating both defendants has been found. The clean up and staging suggests an element of team work. Similarly, the evidence suggests that Amanda and Raffaele cleaned up their own involvement which also implies they were willing to ‘frame’ Rudy as a sole perpetrator, which could also tell us something about the dynamic of the group and the perceived ‘importance’ of each individual within the ‘hierarchy’ of the group.

Silence pact
It appears that a silence pact is in place,  like a ‘what happened in the cottage stays in the cottage’ pact, it appears there is some sort of agreement between Amanda and Raffaele, either to avoid implicating themselves or some kind of joint solidarity. I find it interesting that Amanda voluntarily chose to go to the police station with Raffaele without needing to do so. Their behaviour following the discovery of the body was almost mirrored. Their continued behaviour reminds me of a pact, as does their refusal to speak about Guede.

Impact of group dynamic and implications for our understanding of the crime

Research has indicated that people fall into specific ‘roles’ within groups and are used to fulfilling different roles which are dependent on specific sets of circumstances and social surroundings. Some people are leaders and therefore more dominant, others prefer to blend into the background or provide support to the more dominant members of the ‘pack’.

Hierarchy is extremely important, without it society would struggle and groups would lack purpose and direction. Humans crave hierarchy; this is why we naturally assume different roles. Some naturally take charge and some naturally follow. This is true of all groups.

In any group you usually have a ‘leader’, this person is in charge of making decisions and suggestions and will look to members of the group for advice and support. Leaders are usually more dominant, more loud, more sociable and more outgoing in general. Followers are less dominant and tend to be more introverted.

Group violence and current theory

Research into group violence has indicated that violent attacks on one individual by two or more members of a ‘pack’ are much more brutal, especially in cases when the attack results in the death of the targeted victim. Attacks committed by two or more individuals on one targeted victim are significantly more likely to result in the victim’s death.

One theory which attempts to explain this is the idea of deindividuation and diffusion of responsibility.   According to Zimbardo, deindividuation is the tendency of people within groups to lose their individual identities and become anonymous members of the group, closely linked to this idea is diffusion of responsibility, which outlines the idea that an individual within a group can ‘diffuse’ their own personal level of responsibility onto that of the group, in order to avoid taking personal responsibility for actions which they perceive are the result of the group as a whole. Their actions, like with deindividuation, become that of the group and as such the line between right and wrong can become severely blurred. This process helps to explain why in most instances of group attacks resulting in the death of the victim, the attack itself is often prolonged, sadistic and extremely violent, even if the victim did very little to provoke the attack in the first place.

The murder of Meredith Kercher

The murder of Meredith Kercher is a classic example of group violence and group dynamics within violence. The evidence suggesting that the victim was held, sexually assaulted and taunted with the knife before being killed indicates a group dynamic. Each individual had their own role in the killing and in all likelihood ‘fell into’ the role as a natural extension of their own personality types. Amanda as a person is more dominant than the other two; she is more loud, more adventurous, sociable and competitive, she would in all likelihood have been the ‘leader’ of the group, the ‘puppet master’ if you like. She is at the centre of it all, as such the DNA evidence placing her in the role of knife wielder makes sense, especially with her physical build and make up. It would not make sense in terms of group dynamic and utilisation of group ‘skills’ and ‘attributes’ to have Amanda attempting to restrain Meredith, the men naturally fell into this ‘role’ knowing that they would be able to hold Meredith still. Rudy fell into his ‘role’ as the instigator of the sexual assault and appears to be the weakest ‘member’ of the group, evident by Amanda and Raffaele’s lack of loyalty and their willingness to implicate him for a crime in which they also had an active role. Add to this the theory which suggests that in instances of group violence, a certain amount of deindividuation and diffusion of responsibility leads to an increase in violence, this could explain how three people with no history of violence have either been convicted or are currently on trial for the brutal and sadistic sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher.

Of course we will probably never know exactly what happened to Meredith, but current theory about group dynamics in these sorts of violent attack can go a long way to explaining what happened, even when the persons responsible refuse to say a word.

The recent court testimony concerning Raffaele Sollecito’s computer activities (or lack thereof) between the hours of 9.10pm on the night of the murder right through to 5.30am the next morning, virtually annihilates his alibi of being at home in front of the computer whilst the murder was being committed. Further alibi bashing testimony is expected in the upcoming trial dates when the evidence that Raffaele didn’t pick up a call from his father that night will be presented to the court as will the evidence that Raffaele and his former girlfriend Amanda Knox simultaneously switched their phones off approximately one hour before the attack on Meredith which tragically culminated in her death.

The evidence and testimony so far has incontrovertibly shown that neither Amanda nor Raffaele have a consistent or credible alibi for their whereabouts and actions the night Meredith Kercher was murdered.

Playing Musical Chairs with the Alibi

Raffaele spoke to a reporter called Kate Mansey and claimed he had gone to a party with Amanda on the night of the murder. When the police questioned him with regard to certain inconsistencies in his alibi, with Amanda voluntarily accompanying him to the police station, Raffaele admitted he had ‘told a load of rubbish’ because he didn’t think about ‘inconsistencies’ in Amanda’s version of events, he then told police that Amanda had left his apartment to go to Le Chic and meet some friends whilst he had stayed at the apartment and watched a film whilst downloading another one to watch later, when Amanda (who was conveniently sat at the police station of her own free will) was confronted with the fact that Raffaele was no longer providing her with an alibi she broke down and ‘confessed’ to being at the cottage that night and told the police that she had covered her ears while her boss Patrick Lumumba had raped and killed Meredith. Amanda made a statement which implicated Lumumba and though this cannot be used in the trial due to no lawyer being present, a handwritten note to the police concerning this false accusation has been admitted as evidence. Amanda claims to have been put under pressure by the police by saying that she was hit, not given food or water and essentially implies she was ‘coerced’ into implicating Lumumba. This has not only been shown to be false but has also landed her a further slander charge alongside the one for making the false allegation against Lumumba in the first place. Amanda has since reverted back to her original story by claiming she was at the apartment all night with Raffaele, Raffaele has not confirmed this and as such Amanda has no real alibi. Both claim to have smoked so much marijuana they cannot remember exactly what happened that night, what they did or who was there. Raffaele has been clinging on to his computer/marijuana alibi for dear life and now half of it has melted away, all he is left with is the completely unbelievable insinuation that ‘he cannot remember what happened’ indeed Amanda seems to think this is also a credible alibi.

So here we have two young people, both of whom are known to Meredith, one with keys to the cottage where she was murdered. Both switched their phones off shortly before Meredith was killed and neither have a credible alibi for their actions and whereabouts that night. One claims to have spent the evening at home with the other, the other claims to have spent the evening alone at the computer, they both claim to have been so stoned they can’t remember anything at all, yet both equally ‘remember’ they slept until 10.30am the next morning. Computer evidence has shown one has lied about his activities that night and has also shown that at least one of them played a music file at 5.30am so one or both are lying about sleeping through to 10.30am.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito (aside from Guede who admitted involvement) are in all likelihood the only two people in Perugia that night who, despite repeated interviews, pre-trial hearings and expensive lawyers , still have no credible or consistent alibi for their actions and whereabouts the night Meredith was killed. This, coupled with DNA evidence and witness statements confirms what Claudia Matteini described as ‘strong indications of guilt’. The only card Amanda and Raffaele have left to play is their ‘word’

Exactly why a jury would believe anything these two have to say is beyond me

At this point in time it seems fairly likely that Amanda and Raffaele are lying, not just about what they did that night but also by claiming they can’t remember because they smoked too much marijuana. This is not credible for a number of reasons:

Firstly, marijuana is not widely accepted as a drug that can completely annihilate specific parts of an evening whilst leaving other ‘memories’ intact. In short there is no real evidence to suggest that marijuana can have this effect. Raffaele Sollecito was a heavy pot smoker and it’s likely that Amanda was too, as such the chances of either of them ‘forgetting’ an entire evening, especially considering their previous level of exposure and resistance to the drug, are basically zero. It therefore follows that as the probability of this happening to one of them is low, the chances of it happening to both are even lower. Secondly we also have evidence that a cleanup took place. If Amanda and Raffaele were so stoned they passed out, how can we explain the DNA evidence at the crime scene and the evidence of a clean up? It would not have been possible to have cleaned the apartment (and it was a pretty good job too) if they were that stoned.

Basically it’s a lie and one that has irreparably damaged the credibility of the defendants. Not only that but according to recent research about perpetrators who feign amnesia, it could also be extremely damaging to the defendants overall memory recall which will be vital in order to avoid being ripped to shreds in cross examination if and when they take the stand.

Feigning Amnesia

I’ve recently been thinking about perpetrator amnesia and those who attempt to use it as an alibi particularly in murder cases.

Amnesia takes many forms but is essentially memory loss. It can be permanent or temporary and can be caused by any number of things from brain damage to witnessing or experiencing a severely traumatic event.

An article published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry called ‘Claims of Crime-Related Amnesia  in Forensic Patients’ highlights the differences in theory amongst those attempting to explain the reasons why perpetrators claim amnesia when accused of serious crime and whether these claims have any basis in reality.

According to the authors there are three basic theories as to why offenders claim amnesia when confronted with accusations of a serious crime:

The first outlines the idea that the nature of most serious crime and in particular very violent homicides is very stressful for the offender and argues that these types of offences provoke “strong and emotional reactions” which arguably undermines the memory of the actual crime.

The second argues that in a lot of cases, offenders who claim amnesia have often been extremely intoxicated at the time of committing the crime, this theory suggests that the ability of the offender to encode specific memories about the event is impaired due to intoxication. The researchers also noted a correlation between alcoholism and offenders who claim amnesia.

The third theory outlines the idea that most cases of crime-related amnesia are a form of malingering and that offenders who claim amnesia are in fact feigning a memory deficit to escape or reduce responsibility for their actions.

I am not a fan of reductionist theories that attempt to simplify complex subjects such as this and as such I am inclined to believe that instances of crime-related amnesia are a combination of the above. One theory I am very interested in pursuing with regard to understanding this case further is the idea that offenders who appear to be feigning amnesia  in order to escape punishment may actually be attempting to come up with a plausible rationale for the crime without actually having to discuss crime details that may distress or upset them, as a result of this offenders will often claim they do not remember what happened, both to avoid punishment and so they do not have to ‘reconstruct’ memories of the crime. Memory recall is a tricky area and it has been proven that time elapse and suggestion have a very strong effect on memory recall, lawyers for example are not allowed to ask leading questions in court as memories can occasionally be ‘reconstructed’ as a result of suggestion.

I am of the belief that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are feigning amnesia in order to avoid punishment for their actions and to avoid discussing specific crime details that may be causing them stress or discomfort.

Further research has been conducted into the effects of feigning amnesia on ongoing memory recall. This research suggests that offenders who feign amnesia are more likely to have decreased memory recall over time, further suggesting that offenders who claim to ‘forget’ actually do partially forget. The problem with this is that their original statements and ‘memories’ have already been recorded for use during trial, what can sometimes happen is an offender has spent such a long time pretending not to remember that they experience dissociative amnesia, especially if the crime was traumatic or very violent. In these instances, specific details become hazy and inconsistencies appear which then often results in the defendant being ripped to shreds when they eventually take the stand.

Amanda and Raffaele have already demonstrated an amazing ability to twist details in to newer and ‘improved’ versions of what happened that night, this coupled with their disassociation from the crime and each other has certainly done its fair share of damage already. The inconsistencies in Amanda and Raffaele’s stories have in part come about simply because they have attempted to ‘block out’ and ‘shut away’ any memories of that evening.

Amanda and Raffaele are having (and will continue to have) serious problems with their memory recall for the following reasons:

  • A great deal of time has passed between the murder and the trial
  • They have repeatedly lied about their actions and whereabouts on the night and can no longer remember what they said, who they said it to and why they said it.
  • They have both claimed amnesia which is shown to have an effect on subsequent memory recall of the crime itself.
  • They have both in all likelihood been involved in an extremely violent murder and sexual assault, according to current theory this could have been traumatic enough to severely impair memory recall of the event and as such they are completely resisting all attempts by the prosecution to talk about what actually happened that night (it will take a great many years of therapy and counselling to get this out of them)
  • They were both intoxicated on the night in question which may have had a moderate effect on memory encoding and subsequent memory recall.

As a result of this Amanda and Raffaele will have serious problems if and when they take the stand, I wager that this will the point when someone will crack or slip up, especially if and when Mignini chooses to cross examine them. They won’t stand a chance.

Some ideas and conclusions

Crime related amnesia is a fairly common occurrence in the criminal justice system and there have been a great number of theories attempting to understand why it is so often used as an ‘excuse’ by offenders accused of serious crime.

Psychologists believe it may be in part an attempt to disassociate from the crime both in the attempt to avoid punishment and as an attempt to avoid reconstructing memories of a particularly violent crime which may distress the offender.

I believe that the fact Amanda and Raffaele are using amnesia as a defence strongly indicates they were present in the cottage that night and played an active role in a disturbing and highly sadistic crime which they are now disassociating themselves from. Amanda and Raffaele have experienced problems with memory recall and have been unable to provide a credible or reliable alibi which seems to indicate that they do not in fact have one.

They were at the cottage that night and they in all likelihood participated in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

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:

Amanda
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
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.

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.