Monday, May 03, 2010

From The Book Darkness Descending: The Insights On Knox And Sollecito

Posted by Peter Quennell

This is Hamburg above. And that is Berlin and its parliament (the Bundestag) below. 

Amanda Knox speaks German and she spent several months in these two cities, staying for some weeks in in Hamburg with her relatives, and several days in Berlin, before moving to Perugia to start her study period there.

Darkness Descending is the book on Meredith’s case by two British writers from which we excerpted on Meredith a few days ago.

As far as we know the writers did not visit Seattle, and their focus is more generally on Italy and to some extent the UK. But they did offer this brief take on Amanda Knox, and also one on Raffaele Sollecito.


From Darkness Descending by Paul Russell and Graham Johnson (Pocket Books) pages 291 and 292

Meredith had enjoyed making the pop video with her University of Leeds friends, but Amanda’s summer job, before travelling around Europe and going to Perugia, had not been so successful.

A politically well-connected uncle in Hamburg had got her an internship to die for - a job working for a German MP at the Bundestag. Kindly Uncle Uwe also set Amanda up with a flat on the .outskirts of Berlin.

Astonishingly, two days later, his seemingly ungrateful niece walked out on the job without telling anyone, moaning that she had nothing to do and she wasn’t sure if she was getting paid. Again, money was a big feature in her thoughts.

She’d spent most of the time reading Harry Potter and showed no curiosity about how the parliament or the high-powered people in there worked. She ignored conversations about its history and architecture.

After walking out, she spent her time drinking wine in the local bars and reading more Harry Potter.

Two days later she left Berlin for Hamburg, where her uncle was waiting for her. He was furious - she had let him down.

It seems Amanda craved excitement on her terms, usually based on getting drunk and goofing around.

Her friends said she simply feared boredom like any young girl. She showed a healthy streak of youthful carelessness, they said, no worse or better than anyone else. A video posted on YouTube showed her drunkenly giggling in a friend’s kitchen after downing shots.

On campus, back in the US, Amanda had been fined for being drunk and disorderly at a party held in a fellow student’s house. During the incident she had also insulted the police.

However, her defenders gave another version, portraying a magnanimous Amanda. They said that in fact she was courageously fronting up for her underage friends, who were in no state to talk to the police; she was the only one sober enough to handle the situation.

A big plus in her character assessment, they said, possibly displaying a sense of chivalry that would later get her into deeper trouble in Perugia.

Despite her college party lifestyle, there was no denying that Amanda was clever and that she could compartmentalize her life.

She made the Dean’s List, an elite commendation of the University of Washington reserved for the institution’s brightest students, and an honour that would ultimately qualify her for a prestigious and sought-after place on the study-abroad exchange programme.

If Amanda wanted something, she would go all out to get it, no messing around.

Raffaele Sollecito’s later years were quite different: he seemed to laze around and evade responsibility.

He posted pictures of himself on the internet wrapped in blood-covered bandages, brandishing a meat cleaver, and wrote a weird story to go with the images. In a blog he expressed satisfaction at once being lodged in the same hostel as the infamous ‘Monster of Foligno’, a murderer who slaughtered two youths in the 1990s.

And yet his new-found fascination with gory horror and violent comics would have surprised the friends he left behind at Licea Scientifico Einstein secondary school at Molfetta.

They said Raffaele suffered from excessive softness - his kickboxing instructor recalled that he even hesitated when kicking out, for fear of hurting the hardened expert.


A few interesting insights there, though we could use more on Sollecito.  For most of it, this is a pretty good book, the weak part being the closing analysis of the evidence. Two small corrections.

  • The house where the notorious rock-throwing party took place was where Knox herself was living at the time. See here.

  • Knox was not on an official University of Washington study-abroad program, as the university has rather anxiously tried to make plain. See here.

If Knox had indeed been on a proper study-abroad program - something many caring parents actually insist upon - her behavior might have been more restrained. She may not have moved in with Sollecito for one thing.

She may not have hit the drugs so hard. And she would not have run so desperately short of money, just when Patrick was apparently about to hire Meredith to replace her. No monthly checks were arriving from Seattle. 

Maybe the second correction is not such a small one.

In fact, it is a pity that no writers have really explored all of this - there is, if anything, a surfeit of motives in this case, and the writers might be able to narrow them down.

Although he went to highschool in Molfetta (bottom shot here) and the book is correct on that, Raffaele Sollecito actually comes from Giovinazzo which is ten minutes drive south along the coast.

Both are north of Bari, where his father practices medicine.   


The fact that Knox was NOT on a study abroad program is very, very relevant, and should certainly be mentioned by the media when they regurgitate their “honor student…Dean’s List” mantra.

Posted by Janus on 05/04/10 at 10:02 AM | #

was there a reason amanda did not go on the school’s study abroad program? rome would have had a lot more allure than perugia, surely

Posted by mojo on 05/04/10 at 12:04 PM | #

Hi Janus. Right. This goes to the very guts of probable motive.

Consider the following.

1) Stew Home said in his post that that it is extremely rare for an American student to turn up in Perugia for an intended year there with zero assured funding and support structure.

2) In fact Knox may have been a total anomaly among American students in Perugia, in trying to fund all of it herself. Good parents doing a caring job would have done the math, and said this idea was totally nuts.

3) The REAL rent for Knox’s room in the cottage in that handy location would have been higher than the legally set limit. We heard this only recently, but we now know that it would have been the picture for all the more in-demand rentals in Perugia.

4) Drug prices in Perugia especially for cocaine were going through the roof in late 2007 and if Knox was on cocaine for more than a few days she could already have been addicted - a drug addict, with a sudden expensive habit to pay for.

5) So Knox was looking at a needed financial supply for a year in Perugia (if she intended to stay a year) of over $3,000 a month. Close to $40,000. She seems to arrived with less than $10,000 and to have been down to between $5,000 and near-zero after two months.

6) The bar-related jobs - for which the American Knox would have required an Italian work permit (unlike the EC citizen Meredith - possibly one reason why Patrick wanted to make the change) really pay only peanuts. Unless there are big tips (unlikely in Knox’s case) she’d be lucky to pull in much over $1,000 working five nights a week.

7) If the victim was American and not British in this case, you can bet your sweet patooties that multi-million-dollar liability lawsuits would already be flying around. (They still may.) A lot of the smoke being blown around suggests that everyone except Dempsey gets this.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/04/10 at 02:50 PM | #

Hi Mojo. You presumably saw that the post by Stew Home linked to explains that UW Seattle did not have a full arrangement with the University of Perugia.

So why not elsewhere? Three guesses.

1) The School for Foreigners, although really only a glorified language school into which anyone who can pay gets admitted, does have a terrific reputation. (Meredith was enrolled both there and at the main UP campus.)

2) American students in Perugia usually come across as counting their blessings - it is a wonderful place to be. Rome is pretty choked up now, and it is impossible to walk everywhere, though many of the neighborhoods are still beautiful.

3) Perugia sure has a reputation for fun streetlife and nightlife. (And it does have Italian men.) Anyone into serious student partying in Europe would probably get to hear of it and maybe make a beeline.

A costly choice for her though. Truly a terrible choice. As you perceive, she could have been fully funded elsewhere. And Meredith might still be alive. A terrible choice for Meredith too.

By the way, the U-W and many other American universities have moved sharply to try to stop this ever happening again. The second huge change Meredith is inspiring.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/04/10 at 02:59 PM | #

Hi Peter

That analysis is concise and utterly devastating. Well done indeed.

But, forgive me for being dim, I am British and we are perhaps not quite as litigious as our American cousins (although getting that way, believe me!) - I don’t quite understand the point about the lawsuits (I guess everyone except Dempsey and ME gets it - boy, does that make me feel bad) Who would be suing who here? Knox and Sollecito are liable, of course, and have to pay damages to Meredith’s family and to Mr Lumumba, but who else could be sued here? Are you suggesting that (shall we say) certain adults close to Knox could be liable for not being responsible and checking the financial reality that she was headed into? Am I on the right lines?

I’m sure this is obvious to everyone except me. Sorry!

I also don’t understand why her mother and stepfather (I saw their house on that More4 documentary - not cheap, I imagine) and father (a senior executive) were NOT helping to support Knox financially by sending a check each month. Is that a story that may be told another time, do you think?

Posted by Janus on 05/04/10 at 03:32 PM | #

Hi Janus. Yeah, you seem to be on the right lines. A possible suit would not stand or fail (it may fail) simply on poor student arrangements, it would also take into account the known quirks prior to her departure. We are going on advice here. There have been other examples.

Presumably nobody really wants the financial burden of the family added-to - they have surely learned some very hard lessons - but the incredibly hurtful campaign really should be reigned in. If the victim’s parents were American, that could be the real purpose of a suit.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/04/10 at 03:43 PM | #

Thanks, Peter

Your arguments are fine and logical and make perfect sense. I wish the media was giving us this sort of information, rather than this stream of “honor student..spoke several languages…widely-travelled..dean’s list..All-American girl”

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that if this case had occurred before the advent of the internet, and I was getting my information purely from the mainstream media, I would almost certainly have doubts about Knox’s guilt, purely and simply because of the skewed way they pick and choose what they tell us. It’s disturbing, for all manner of reasons.

Posted by Janus on 05/04/10 at 04:05 PM | #


AK writes as Marie Pace. Well, Marie pays. Pays very well. There’s also Pace piquante sauce. Seems she wanted Mexican food when she got out of prison, along with Edda’s pastries.

The MP of her pen name also makes her initials same as Madison Paxton. (I had theorized MK as Meredith Kercher once, but MP is more accurate.)

Homophones are a pet interest of mine. Book titles by famous authors can be sounded out to reveal a completely different message hidden in the title, something that was significant to the author.

It does take reading their bio first. Then it’s amusing to see these imbedded meanings versus the strict idea that a book title is simply a utility handle on a manuscript. I worked out several things with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s and Zelda Sayre’s novels.

The idea of homophones may also work with names of new drugs. Sounds suggest or echo things that can be a big turnoff to the pharmacy product, or a good hook.

In dreams the mind turns to homophones to further disguise meanings from consciousness. Earrings may be hearings.

Marie pays. Does she pay for her crime?

Posted by Hopeful on 05/05/10 at 09:28 PM | #

It’s tragic how Rudy kept getting his confidence smashed until he gave up. Tragic.

Posted by Hopeful on 05/05/10 at 11:02 PM | #

thanks Peter. I went to school in Perugia at the University for Foreigners, and agree to its charm—but UW has a program of their own in Rome. I’ve been to their digs near the Campo de Fiori and they are great and centrally located. I was just curious why Perugia which would have been far more complicated rather than the UW program which is well run and already set up?...Was it financial or were there other reasons? Did she want no supervision of any kind?

Posted by mojo on 05/06/10 at 02:30 PM | #

Hi mojo. That University for Foreigners sure is pretty inside, right? I have a number of shots taken inside that are not yet posted.

Nothing new right now to contribute on this. But chosing Perugia with its automatic absence of money supply was taken by Stew Home (who does professional student counseling and supervision) as a sign first and foremost that she wanted to break out and be unrestrained.

That might not automatically have meant she always intended lots of sex and drugs. Others take the same unrestrained route and end up in serious study. But in her case, right out of a Jesuit school and some wild partying at UW? One has to wonder.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/06/10 at 04:51 PM | #

“Darkness Descending” relates how AK blew off the Bundestag and helpful Uncle Uwe. Looks like impulsivity here along with egocentric attitude. She began to sever all family ties.

AK’s recent note to her parents (see PMF post by guermantes May 6, 2010) babbling about innocence may hold shocking clues to a prank note that was placed at the University for Foreigners a few days after MK’s murder to re-rent her room. The phone number was phony, using the date of Nov. 1, 2007 as the phone number, the date of MK’s murder. The prank’s handwriting may POSSIBLY be traced to Amanda thanks to her latest balogny penned to her parents, gag. The printed all-caps portion of AK’s recent letter has striking similarites to the handwritten rental notice.

CAUTION: It is far from proven yet that AK wrote the prank note listing MK’s room for rent. It would be wonderful if some handwriting experts could compare the two and give an informed opinion. If AK did write the prank note, she has hit a new low of deviance. It would be proof of her sneering at her adversaries, dissing Meredith, justifying harm and going even further to laugh at it, demean the victim over and over.

Impulsivity, no guilt, selfishness, and risk-taking could be inferred from this prank if AK did pen this malicious note which was discovered Nov. 4 or 5th, around the time of MK’s memorial service in Perugia. AK & RS weren’t yet in custody. Maybe she did this instead of attending the memorial service.

The fake rental ad for Meredith’s former room emphasizes how bright and sunny the room is. The ad says “Urgente” and that only the serious need respond. (note is written in Italian but this is the gist of it) And guess who would be the ideal renter? A young student in the Erasmus program, preferably a girl from England. If AK did write this, that’s audacity.

Yes, it seems the cottage brightened up quickly with MK no longer alive. See PMF May 6, 2010 9:27pm Corrina post for guermantes’ English translation of the note: “Rent single room wide and bright, beautiful view, in front of the S. Antonio car park…”

Posted by Hopeful on 05/07/10 at 09:31 PM | #

Here is an article showing the note, Hopeful!

Interesting, I have to say…

Posted by Patou on 05/07/10 at 11:29 PM | #

I am shocked by the information on the similarities in the hand writing between the two notes by Amanda Knox, as discussed on PMF in this thread:

With my layman´s eyes I also noted several other similarities, like the rounded angles of several letters. I am convinced Amanda Knox is the author of the prank ad.

It is not unusual for a perpetrator of a crime to feel the need to “brag” about the crime by being among the “helpful”  bystanders to provide the police with information, etc., to make references to the crime that that contain clues, etc. After all, what is the purpose of dirtying ones hands so much if no additional benefit is gained? Especially for perpetrators with exhibitionist character traits, that Amanda also possesses, like sharing her sexual escapades over email with her friends back home.

It is clear to me, that Amanda Knox, who had already provided insight into her sadistic side by the stories and comments on her MySpace page, had the need to expose that dark side of her. It also fits her personality to commit such a crime together with male company, since that was the company she had been most comfortable with during the years she lived off-campus in a mostly male student housing.

Amanda Knox must have experienced a rush of excitement she had never before experienced in her life, the days after the murder. This made her extremely bold, and not afraid of pushing it is little further by trying to turn the tragedy into a joke into the student community by posting the prank ad.

Unfortunately for Amanda, she was an amateur and her self-centeredness caused her to forget about the scientific part of her ¨work¨. Her boldness and eagerness to be right on top of the investigation increased her own fall. The world should consider itself lucky that she did not make more victims, because I am convinced that if she had gotten away with this murder, we would have heard from her sometime in the future.

Posted by saskia on 05/08/10 at 08:35 PM | #

Post A Comment


Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry From The Book Darkness Descending: The Insights On Rudy Guede

Or to previous entry Amazon Reviewers Of New Dempsey Book Don’t Seem Universally Impressed