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.
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.
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.