The real Amanda
Amanda arrived in Perugia, Italy, in mid-September 2007 to
attend the University for Foreigners. She found a living
situation in a cottage that she shared with two young Italian women and
Meredith Kercher, a British student attending the University of Perugia
under the Erasmus Program. In late October, Amanda met Raffaele
a classical music concert. They commenced a relationship. Amanda began
spending the night at Raffaele’s apartment.
Thursday, November 1, 2007, was the start of a long weekend in Italy,
as Italians celebrate All Saints Day as a family holiday. The
two Italian housemates were absent from the cottage and Amanda was
staying at Raffaele's apartment. On that evening, Meredith
watched a movie at the home of a friend before returning to the cottage
at 9:10 pm. The authorities believe she was murdered sometime in
the next few hours.
On November 2, 2007, Amanda returned home at 10:30 am and found the
front door to the cottage ajar, which she attributed to the unreliable
latch on the door. The door to Meredith's room was closed,
and Amanda assumed she was still sleeping. Amanda took a
shower in the small bathroom she shared with Meredith and noticed a few
droplets of blood. After showering, she dried her hair in the
second, larger bathroom, where she noticed someone had used the toilet
It seemed an ordinary, quiet morning, so at first Amanda was not
alarmed by what she encountered at the cottage. But the more
she thought about it, the more concerned she became. She
returned to Raffaele’s apartment and told him about her
concern. Then she called one of her Italian roommates, and
she tried to call Meredith. Cellular records show that Amanda
made these calls a few minutes after noon on November 2.
After a quick breakfast, she returned to the cottage with Raffaele,
where they made a closer inspection. They found a broken
window and evidence that someone might have broken into the
cottage. They also discovered that Meredith's door was
locked. Raffaele called his sister, a police officer, and she
told him to call the police. Just after he did so, officers from
another police division arrived on their own, because Meredith's cell
phones had been found in
the garden of a nearby residence and had been traced to the
cottage. A few minutes later, Meredith's locked door was
forced open in the presence of the police and her body was
discovered. She was on the floor, under a duvet, partially
disrobed, with her throat cut.
The police questioned Amanda and Raffaele repeatedly as witnesses over
the next few days. Both gave the same account of their
activities and whereabouts. But on the night of November 5-6,
the two were pulled into separate rooms and subjected to more
aggressive interrogations. Under intense pressure, they
accounts. Raffaele said that Amanda was gone from his
apartment for a
few hours, and Amanda described a dream or a vision of herself covering
her ears to block out screams while the man she worked for, a bar owner
named Patrick Lumumba, was in Meredith’s room.
here to read
more about Amanda's statements to police.
Amanda signed two statements on the morning of November 6, one at 1:45
am and a second at 5:45 am. The Italian Supreme Court has
ruled the second statement cannot be used as evidence because at the
time she signed it, Amanda was a suspect rather than a witness.
Amanda's supporters contend that her statements were made under duress
and she ended up telling the police what they wanted to hear even
though it was not true. She was kept up all night, claims to
have been hit, and was denied a lawyer and professional translator.
Amanda, Raffaele, and Patrick were arrested and jailed on the morning
of November 6. Patrick was released after about two
weeks because he had an unshakable alibi.
Around the time Patrick was released, the authorities used forensic
analysis to identify a fourth suspect, an immigrant from Ivory Coast
named Rudy Guede. Guede had left a hand print, in
the victim's blood, on a pillow found underneath her corpse. In
addition, his DNA was found inside her body, on her
on her handbag. DNA evidence also linked him to the unflushed
Guede fled to Germany after the murder, but police tracked him
down. He was arrested and extradited back to Italy.
Following his arrest, Guede told police that he and Meredith had
arranged to meet at the cottage that evening, and they had consensual
contact that stopped short of intercourse. Guede claimed he
suddenly needed to use the bathroom, and while he was sitting on the
toilet listening to his iPod, a stranger entered the cottage and
attacked Meredith. Guede said he emerged from the bathroom
and grappled with the stranger, who ran off into the night after
shouting "a black man found is a black man condemned." He
said he then tried to comfort Meredith, but at some point he panicked
and fled the scene. Witnesses saw him dancing at a local
nightclub at about 2:00 am on the morning of November 2, just a few
hours after the murder.
While Guede was in Germany, police monitored a phone call during which
he explicitly stated that Amanda was not present when the murder took
place. A few months after his arrest, however, Guede changed
his story. In his revised account, the stranger with whom he
grappled became Raffaele. His initial story did not implicate
Amanda, but in the revised version, he claimed she was present as well,
albeit outside the room.
Under most circumstances, the arrest of Guede might have put an end to
the investigation, because the evidence against him was so
conclusive. In this case, however, authorities announced they
had solved the crime before they even knew about Guede. On
November 6, 2007, they held a news conference at which they asserted
that the murder had been committed by Amanda, Raffaele, and Patrick
because Meredith refused to participate in a group sex game.
Later, when a airtight alibi forced the authorities to release
Lumumba, they substituted Guede as the third participant in the alleged
sex game, even though he had no known connection to either Amanda or
Raffaele. It seemed the authorities had committed themselves
to a specific theory, and they went to work developing evidence that
would fit that theory. Following is a summary of that
1. Statements made by the suspects
As noted above, the suspects changed their stories when interrogated
from the evening of November 5 into the morning of November
6. Raffaele claimed that Amanda was out alone for some
time. After an arduous interrogation, Amanda made two
statements, the second of which described a dream or vision of herself
covering her ears to block out screams while Lumumba was in Meredith's
Both Lumumba and Guede are black men. The defense believes
the police who interrogated Amanda were aware, on the basis of hair
they had recovered from the victim's hand, that a black person was
involved in the crime, and so they steered her toward Lumumba for that
reason. Amanda had exchanged text messages with Lumumba on
the evening of November 1. At 8:18 pm, Lumumba sent a message
telling Amanda that there wasn't much business and she didn't need to
come in to work. At 8:35 pm, she confirmed receiving the
message and said "See you later. Good night." Amanda claims the police
insisted that her text message meant that she
intended to meet Lumumba later, and they continued to press
her on this point, so she finally described this dream or vision under
great duress. Judge Claudia Matteini's court order of
November 9, 2007, confirms that the authorities did in fact interpret
the message exchange to mean that Amanda and Lumumba intended to meet
later that evening. (Matteini wrote: "On the evening around
8.30pm, while Amanda found herself at the house of Raffaele, she
received the message from Diya Lumumba who, rather than simply warning
her to not come to work, instead confirmed the appointment that
Both Amanda and Raffaele now claim their initial statements to police
were truthful and accurate.
2. The alleged murder weapon
Police seized a large kitchen knife from Raffaele’s apartment, which
they claim has Amanda’s DNA on the handle and Meredith’s DNA on the
There are three critical problems with the knife as evidence:
Low Copy Number (LCN) tests, like the one performed on the knife
blade, are regarded by many experts as inherently unreliable, because
it is not possible to prevent biological contamination at the level of
picograms. Even in well-run labs, control samples regularly show up
with DNA that theoretically should not be there.
- The alleged match to Meredith’s DNA is highly dubious because the
sample quality was so infinitesimally small (less than 100 picograms, with a picogram
being a trillionth of a gram, or 0.000000000001 gram).
- The knife does not match a knife-shaped blood
stain left on the
- Experts have already testified that the knife
could not have made at
least two of the three wounds found on Meredith’s throat. The
stain on the bed appears to have been made by a knife compatible with
all the wounds.
3. Raffaele’s DNA on the victim’s bra
Six weeks after the murder, police collected a bra fastener from the
floor of Meredith's room. Tests revealed a microscopic trace
of Raffaele's DNA on this item. But, as with the knife, there
are substantial problems:
here to read
more about how police mishandled this key piece of evidence.
- Tests also revealed the DNA of at least three
people on the bra fastener.
- Investigators made a mess of Meredith's room
when they went through her
belongings. Police video shows that the fastener was kicked
or swept to one side and eventually became mixed with a pile of
clutter, which exposed it to numerous potential sources of
- The police video shows that the item was
handled extensively by two
investigators before it was bagged as evidence, further increasing the
risk of contamination.
In the case of the bra fastener, contamination most likely took
place at the crime scene rather than in the lab. Raffaele had been in
the cottage on multiple
occasions, and he attempted to break down the door to the room on the
day after the murder, before the police arrived. His DNA
would have been present on door handles and other surfaces, available
to be transferred to any other object.
4. Other physical evidence
Authorities say tests on blood stains in the bathroom show Meredith's
DNA was mixed with that of Amanda. Carlo Torre, one
of Italy's leading forensic scientists, is advising Amanda's defense
team and has examined the lab reports. His conclusion is that
the samples are Meredith's blood contaminated with Amanda's non-blood
DNA, which would have been spread all over the bathroom, so these
stains prove nothing in relation to the murder.
here to read
more about these DNA samples.
Authorities used luminol, a chemical compound that reacts with even
of blood, to reveal latent footprints Amanda's room as well as the
corridor outside the victim's room. They say these prints show that
in Meredith's blood and tracked it around. But DNA tests on the latent
footprints flatly contradict this claim, and luminol reacts with many
other substances besides blood. And,
like the mixed DNA in the bathroom, the footprints are found
the hallway, not in the room where the murder took place.
here to read more
about the luminol results.
5. WitnessesAn Albanian man with drug and alcohol
problems testified that he saw the three suspects together on the night
of the murder. He was utterly discredited on cross-examination. A
homeless man who likewise has a substance-abuse problem claims to have
seen Amanda and Raffaele lurking in a public area near the cottage on
the night of the murder. A woman who lives in a nearby apartment claims
to have heard a scream followed by the footsteps of more than one
person outside in the street. Two additional witnesses came forward
more than a year after the crime. One testified that he saw Amanda in his
store the morning after the murder, but his employee took the stand and
flatly contradicted this assertion. The other late witness claims he
saw Amanda and Raffaele with Guede before the night of the murder. The
defense believes all these witnesses are either unreliable or have no
testimony relevant to the case.
6. Demeanor and character evidence
The prosecutor went to a lot of trouble and expense to bring in
witnesses who made unfavorable comments about Amanda. These witnesses
included a number of Meredith's friends from the UK as well as Amanda's
Italian housemates. They described Amanda as being lax in housekeeping,
and they said her behavior after the murder came across as insensitive.
It is worth noting what was not
In short, nobody described any behavior that could possibly be
considered hostile or aggressive, much less violent. And in that
crucial respect, the prosecution's character witnesses are in perfect
agreement with Amanda's friends and family in Seattle.
- Nobody heard Amanda say anything negative to or
- Nobody said that Amanda ever became angry or
raised her voice with anyone.
- Nobody said Amanda stole from them, lied to
them, or caused them any problem whatsoever.
- Nobody said Amanda ever intimidated anyone or
that they felt intimidated by her.
the crime scene was
Police have asserted that the shattered window is evidence that a
break-in was staged, and that only an insider — someone known to have
keys to the cottage — would perform such staging, in an effort to make
it look like the murder was committed by a stranger. This
alleged staging is one of the crimes with which Amanda and Raffaele
have been formally charged.
There is no evidence to support this charge. Investigators
have merely assumed that the window is too high off the ground to
actually have been used as a point of access. A witness at the trial,
however, has testified that shortly before Meredith was killed, Rudy
Guede was found in possession of a property that had been stolen from
an office by someone who pitched a rock through a window three meters
above the ground and used that window to gain entry. This is almost
identical to what appears to have happened at the cottage.
defense has conducted experiments showing that a man of Guede's height could easily have gotten through the
broken window at the cottage. The building
perched on a steep
hillside, so the window is adjacent to and within reach of a
walkway. The intruder could have gone through the window
by using a planter box at the edge of the walkway as a starting
point. Alternatively, bars on a lower-story window could have
been used like a ladder to gain access, as shown in the photo.
8. The dispute about
arrived at the cottage
noted above, Meredith's
cell phones were found in a garden on the day after the
murder. They were turned into the Postal Police, a branch
law enforcement that deals with telecommunications. The Postal Police
phones to the cottage where Meredith and Amanda lived, and the
dispatched officers to investigate. The prosecutor and the Postal
Police assert that these officers arrived at the cottage at least 15
before Raffaele called the emergency number to alert a different branch
of the police that an intruder had broken into
the cottage. They say Raffaele told them he had already called
the emergency number.
This allegation invites the question of why
Raffaele did not tell the arriving officers that he was
about to call the police, instead of carrying out a ruse. It is also a
doubtful claim in light of
the available evidence. The verbal testimony of the Postal
Police, that they know they arrived at 12:35 because one of them
checked his watch, contradicts a log entry made by the department
the time of the incident, which says the car was not sent out until
12:46 pm. Raffaele called the emergency number at 12:51 pm.
The Postal Police also produced a time-stamped
black-and-white photo taken by a surveillance camera in a parking
garage across the street from the cottage. It shows an unmarked sedan,
which they claim was the one they drove that day. Given the location of
the camera, however, the car in the picture would have just passed the
driveway leading to the cottage and would have had to follow a
circuitous route to get back to that driveway.
9. The alleged cleanup
Before the trial, the authorities fed rumors to the media
about receipts showing purchases of bleach, evidence
found in a washing machine,
and other indications that Amanda and Raffaele cleaned the cottage
murder. All of these claims have turned out to be entirely false, and
none of them has surfaced during the trial.
here to read more about the alleged cleanup.