Sunday, March 13, 2011

New John Kercher Article: “As A Little Girl Meredith Was Funny, Clever And Extremely Self-Assured”

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By Meredith’s father John in today’s Sunday Times:

To my knowledge nine books have been published about the Amanda Knox murder case, with one more on the way. There have been five television documentaries. A made-for-TV film was shown in America last month, and there are plans for a British film, possibly starring Colin Firth. The news media seem transfixed. Knox’s supporters post their views online and plan a “bowling fundraiser” next Sunday in Seattle, her home town.

There is someone missing from this obsession with “Foxy Knoxy”, as the 23-year-old student was quickly nicknamed in the press. Meredith Kercher, my daughter, was killed that night in Perugia, Italy, 3½ years ago. It’s time to tell her story - and the story of her family, for whom there are no appeals against Meredith’s death, but only a long, painful and extremely expensive emotional limbo as the Knox saga grinds its way through the Italian courts.

In December 2009 Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were sentenced to 26 years and 25 years respectively for killing Meredith. An Ivorian drifter, Rudy Guede, had already been convicted at a fast-track trial and sentenced to 30 years, reduced on appeal to 16. We attended the sentencing of Knox and Sollecito in Perugia. As Meredith’s brother, Lyle, said afterwards, it was not a moment for celebration; more one of satisfaction that some verdict had been reached. But our agony did not finish there.

We would like to be able to remember Meredith for the loving, humorous and caring person she was, rather than a murder victim. But under Italian law Knox and Sollecito have a right to two appeals: one to the court in Perugia, which is in progress, and, if that should fail, a further one to the Supreme Court in Rome.

The result of the current appeal is not expected until September. Should it go against them, then at least a year or even years could pass as the second appeal is heard. This is the stuff of nightmares, compounded by the way that Knox has been turned into a celebrity and the murder into entertainment.

I saw the trailer for the American TV film about her and was horrified by the scene that purported to depict the killing of my daughter. It was removed before broadcast but Meredith was still shown with a bloody wound in her neck. Mez, as we called her, should not be remembered by the way she died but by how she was for the 21 years of her short life.

As a little girl she was funny, clever and extremely self-assured, with a wonderful singing voice. At about five she told me she wanted to be a pop star. When a girl with whom she was meant to do a duet at junior school fell sick, Meredith performed the song alone. Other parents came up afterwards to compliment her nerve and ability.

She wasn’t a show-off. Her talents often surfaced spontaneously - such as when she picked up a toy guitar at home, stuffed a cigarette in her mouth, pulled her hair down over her face, stuck a hat on her head and did an impression of Slash from Guns N’ Roses. It was hilarious.

As she became older, she showed high academic ability, winning a place at Leeds University to study European politics and Italian. She was meant to be on a four-year course that included a year’s study at an Italian university, but she discovered that, because of a mix-up, she had been put on one with no year abroad. She was horrified and fought for months to be reinstated - successfully.

Meredith loved Italy, having been there several times with her school and a couple of times on family holidays. At the end of one exchange trip near Naples, most of the English students were in tears at having to say goodbye to the Italian families they had stayed with. Meredith, however, was smiling “because I know that I’m going to return and that, some day, I’m going to live here”.

She had a choice of three cities for her year overseas: Rome, Milan and Perugia. She chose Perugia because of its medieval quarter and the hope that it would be easier to make friends there than in a big city.

She flew out in late August 2007, checked into a family hotel for three nights and went to the University for Foreigners to look for accommodation in the town, eventually finding a room in a cottage. She rang to tell me about it, saying two Italian girls already had rooms there and an American girl would be joining them later.

Meredith had lived with Arline, her mother, since our divorce in 1997, but we had spoken every evening on the telephone and she came to dinner with me after school every week. We continued our conversations every evening when she was in Italy. She told me about her studies, the wonderful restaurants she had been to and the places she was hoping to visit.

She came back from Italy for a weekend to clean the house for her mother, who was suffering renal failure. That was the sort of person Mez was - very caring, not simply to family and friends but to strangers too. Once, working part-time in a restaurant, she saw that a female customer with a young child had had too much to drink. Meredith paid for a cab to get them home safely.

This was the person who was savagely murdered on November 1, 2007. I had spoken to Meredith that afternoon. It was Ognissanti, All Saints’ Day, a public holiday in Italy. She told me she would be out that evening but would talk to me the next day. My last words to her were: “I love you.”

The following evening her mother called, telling me that a British student had been killed in Perugia. I never dreamt that it was Meredith, and so I telephoned her number to see if she knew anything. At first I got an answering machine. After dialling a dozen times or more, I heard a ringing tone at the other end. That was a relief. I assumed that she wasn’t answering because she was in a different room.

An hour later, still getting no reply, I became worried and rang one of the national newspapers that I write for. Its foreign desk told me, after checking with Italy, that the police had found the dead girl’s mobile phones and had been in touch with people in London.

I was relieved. Whoever the poor girl was, she couldn’t be Meredith, because her family had presumably been informed. Half an hour later, however, I was told that the name going round Italy was Meredith. I was in shock. A friend drove me to Arline’s house. After a couple of hours Meredith’s picture came up on the television; by then the Foreign Office had confirmed that it was our daughter.

We flew to Italy to identify her. The press outside the morgue was crying, as were the police, and I couldn’t go in to see her. I wanted to remember her as she had always been. I had seen her only a few weeks earlier, when she had been on a shopping trip to London for winter clothes to take back to Italy. She had been so proud of her new boots. That was how I wanted to remember her.

Then the long legal process began: investigation, arrests, trials and now the appeal. The defence lawyers are contesting the DNA evidence from the alleged murder weapon, a knife found in a drawer at Sollecito’s apartment. They say the DNA samples - Meredith’s on the tip of the blade, Knox’s on the handle - are too small to be admissible as evidence. They also argue that DNA on a clasp from Meredith’s bra, found in her room six weeks after her body was discovered, could have been contaminated.

This is disputed by the top forensics team from Rome, led by Patrizia Stefanoni, an internationally respected forensic scientist. The fact that recently, in Britain, someone was convicted on 17-year-old DNA evidence is ignored by the defence.

Knox’s supporters in America, while concentrating on the DNA, do not seem to be aware of the huge body of other evidence that was given. Under Italian law a judge has to write an official report on how a verdict was reached. Judge Giancarlo Massei, who presided at the trial of Knox and Sollecito, produced a 400-page report.

It is quite revealing, showing that - although Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s genetic material were found mixed together in several locations in the bathroom - much more than the DNA evidence was responsible for the decision to convict. For example:

  • Sollecito claimed to have been working at his computer on the evening of the murder, but computer records show that it was inactive. Both Sollecito’s and Knox’s mobile phones were switched off that night.

  • A witness saw the couple several times in the vicinity of the cottage on the night of the killing, although they said they were at Sollecito’s home. Their alibis changed nine times, with Sollecito saying that he could not remember whether Knox was with him all evening. They even hinted at putting the blame on each other. Apart from Meredith, only Knox and two other flatmates, who were away at the time, had keys to the cottage.

  • Sollecito’s naked footprint was found on a bathmat in the cottage; and Knox’s footprints were found outside Meredith’s room, in the passageway and in another room, where police believe a break-in was staged. (These footprints were revealed with luminol, a chemical used by forensic investigators to detect traces of blood at crime scenes, as it glows blue in reaction with the iron in haemoglobin. It can show bloody footprints even after attempts to clean them away.) nAs for the “break-in”, the police immediately noticed that glass from a broken window was on top of clothes supposedly scattered by an intruder. The glass would have been under the clothes if the window had been broken before the room was ransacked. No valuables were taken, and a real burglar would have found far easier access to the house without breaking a window.

  • Sollecito told the police that nothing had been taken from the room supposedly broken into. But how would he know? It was used by an Italian girl, not present on the night of the killing, who had not yet checked it out for herself.

  • Knox described the position of Meredith’s body and how she had died, although she had not been able to see into Meredith’s room when the door was broken down by the police.

There are many more factors, almost 20 in all, among them the suspicion that there may have been something ritualistic about Meredith’s death. The prosecutor was criticised for mentioning this, but she was killed on the eve of the Day of the Dead, November 2. Sollecito was said to have Japanese manga comics that described the rape and killing of female vampires. Meredith had been dressed as a vampire to celebrate Hallowe’en.

In addition, the Supreme Court in Rome has recently issued its report on Guede’s appeal. Pointing out that there were more than 40 wounds on Meredith’s body, it found that he did not act alone and that two others were involved. There is also a suggestion that her body and the room were rearranged after the killing.

Guede, who admitted having been in the cottage on the night of the murder, fled the premises and went to a disco before escaping to Germany, where he was arrested. So who cleaned up the house in an attempt to remove all traces of their presence that night?

While not wanting to complain, I find it odd that the British government will not help us pay for travelling expenses to the courts in Italy, which we have had to attend on five occasions so far for the trial and appeal.

The British consul in Florence was marvellous, providing emotional support and translation facilities, and two MPs have tried to get us financial backup; but the Foreign Office says it does not pay for costs of attending court hearings abroad.

Each European Union country is supposed to provide some sort of compensation for the family of anyone from another EU nation killed on its territory; but Italy did not sign up to this, so nothing has been forthcoming from Rome. We have had to fund everything ourselves. It adds up - about £40,000 so far.

In court our lawyer demanded E21m (£18m) in compensation from the defendants, but this was a purely symbolic amount, seen in Italy as a way of demonstrating the severity of the case. Anyone assuming we received such a sum is under a misapprehension.

It is now into the fourth year since Meredith’s death, and the pressure of grief is still upon us. It has been constant torment, but the memory of Meredith will continue to stay with everyone. Leeds University planted an oak tree in her memory; and, with our family, students released balloons bearing messages for her. Her school, Old Palace in Croydon, planted a cherry tree for her. Every year, on the anniversary of her death, at Christmas Eve and on her birthday (December 28), our family and Meredith’s friends go to the cemetery to leave flowers and cards for her.

Recently I unearthed a book I wrote for Meredith. She was 14 and I was visiting her at her mother’s house. When the time came for me to leave, she suddenly asked me to tell her a bedtime story. I laughed and said I had told her one from when she two until she was 12, and I had run out of ideas. But she was insistent. So I told her I would go home, write something and read it down the telephone to her.

That’s what I did, with her as the lead character, and she loved it and wanted more. So I continued and it turned into a novel, The Strange Case of Miss Carla. I like to think that this is my tribute to a wonderful daughter.

Posted by Our Main Posters on 03/13/11 at 11:05 PM in The officially involvedVictims family

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This is beautiful. Mr. Kercher’s tribute to Meredith in this and also in his book for her, “The Strange Case of Miss Carla”, is comforting and inspiring.

It’s good to hear from those who intimately knew the lively and goodnatured young Meredith. Meredith paying taxi fare to make sure an intoxicated mother got herself and her child home safely is a great testimony.

Meredith will always be alive and beautiful in my thoughts. I wish there were a bank account in England set up to receive donations from friends of Meredith in the U.S. to help the Kerchers with legal and travel expenses.

Posted by Hopeful on 03/14/11 at 12:11 AM | #

John Kercher’s article resumes it perfectly.

This article from John Kercher I like best so far. It is warm and brings the evidence against Knox and Sollecito to the point.

No doubt in my mind they will ultimately be convicted of the crime.

Posted by Nell on 03/14/11 at 01:35 AM | #

Mr Kercher has previously stated in a tabloid article that he has never had a doubt that AK and RS are culpable for his daughter’s death.

That apart he has maintained a dignified silence about the case for a long time.

Now he has ventured to give a brief explanation of the evidence.

Many have been trying for ages to get the press to do just that.

I am glad that Mr Kercher has done this and I am just as glad that his article has appeared in a quality newspaper. I truly hope that this will embarrass many in the media and they will now review and correct some of their own asinine coverage.

Mr Kercher speaks movingly yet again of Meredith and how he must wish that she had not fought quite so hard to get her one year study abroad re-instated!

That is one of life’s tragic ironies.

Posted by James Raper on 03/14/11 at 01:57 AM | #

Meredith Kercher and the Kercher family are in good hands being represented by Francesco Maresca - their lawyer.

Francesco Maresca will continue to oversee until the end that justice will be served to Meredith and her family.

As for the defense lawyers who keep clutching at straws in a no-win appeal case and the Knox & Mellas clans for holding bowling fundraisers, shame on them!

Posted by True North on 03/14/11 at 02:47 AM | #

I really feel for the Kercher family, and wish them the strength to endure all that lies ahead including these court appeal proceedings and endless obnoxious PR defense spins.
Can’t the money from the Knox bowling fundraiser go to the Kercher family as retribution from the court settlement?

Posted by giustizia on 03/14/11 at 03:43 AM | #

Dear all,

I remember reading part of the Micheli report, translated, on this site… a friend has asked to have a link to it and I cannot find it anymore… would anyone kindly provide the link so I can pass it on!?


Posted by Giselle on 03/14/11 at 04:41 AM | #

Hi Giselle. The Micheli Report was posted on the Italian Ministry of Justice website early in 2009 and read widely in Italy.

It was translated into English mostly by our Italian poster Nicki, and then all the key parts except for the autopsy were summarized by Nicki and Brian S here.

That seemed to be enough at the time. But not one UK or US media outfit picked up on it or did their own translation.

That allowed the conspiracy theories to fester. There is a post about that here and the Massei Report was translated and distributed in full as a result.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/14/11 at 05:32 AM | #

A very moving piece by Mr Kercher. One can feel his hurt.
I can feel the truth and pure honesty coming from him on reading this - quite a contrast with anything the Knox/Mellas familes utter.
So sad.

R.I.P. Meredith Kercher.

Posted by Black Dog on 03/14/11 at 06:29 AM | #

What a wonderful portrait of Meredith Kercher, to adorn her father’s piece. In refusing a preciseness down to the last detail, this (memorial) portrait rises to the timeless realm of art.

Reminiscent of the technique of the great Dutch painters but yet in Meredith’s Southern heritage & raven hair, or in the contrast between her bright face & dark background, we are reminded somewhat of the chiaroscuro of the Italian master, Caravaggio.

Posted by Ernest Werner on 03/14/11 at 08:24 AM | #

This was a really touching and very moving letter by Mr. Kercher. His last one almost made me cry when I read it. I can’t even imagine what him and his family are going through. My heart goes out to John and his family for their loss. It disgusts and angers me the amount of attention Knox is getting compared to the real victim in this case, Meredith.

I agree with Hopeful when she talks about setting up a way to donate to the Kerchers for their traveling expenses. I would love to donate and wish there was a way to do it.

Posted by Barry on 03/14/11 at 10:23 AM | #

It seems a travesty indeed that money is being raised for the family of the convicted whilst the Kerchers are left to fend for themselves. How can the required steps be taken to set up a Meredith Kercher Fund that we can pay into?

Posted by Ann-Marie on 03/14/11 at 11:00 AM | #

By Storm Roberts (Innai)

I have read that someone, I think it was Edda Mellas, said that the Kercher family didn’t know the full truth because they hadn’t been in the court at every hearing.

Mr. Kercher’s touching tribute to his much loved and much missed daughter shows that he is perfectly aware of the evidence and, although there is no cause for celebration, believes that justice has begun to be served for his daughter.

Even to those who never had the privilege of knowing her in life, Meredith will be remembered for her ‘light up the world’ smile.

Posted by Nolongeramember on 03/14/11 at 11:50 AM | #

Hi Innai. The bizarre remark Edda Mellas made about John and Arline Kercher is quoted in this post.  It contradicted a conciliatory press release the Knox camp put out, and it came across like Edda Mellas was muddled about the party line du jour.

There was some chat on PMF as to whether she was or she wasn’t. She has had quite a history of saying the wrong thing as she is finding out in her own trial.

She seems to have been more subdued or restrained ever since. And John Kercher has won a lot of sympathy via his press pieces. As he explains in the above piece, keeping a Kercher family presence in Perugia during the trial was simply beyond them.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/14/11 at 04:33 PM | #

I am an ashamed American who won’t forget the three guilty convicted murderers who took Meredith’s young life away and left her family emotionally bankrupt. I can only hope that the appeals fail and the three murderers pay in prison for all of their sentenced time. What an amoral family this is that raised Knox to be such a monster and refuse to apologize to the Kercher family. They must have never punished her for lying during her upbringing (or in truth lack thereof)as all children try…they act the same way. Say whatever it is to get out of trouble uncaring of the truth or what is right and rightous. I am glad that the Italian justice system got it right and haven’t caved in to whatever pressure these lowlifes have brought.

Posted by friar fudd on 03/14/11 at 08:43 PM | #

“She chose Perugia because of its medieval quarter and the hope that it would be easier to make friends there than in a big city”.

Oh, Mez. Grown men wept.

Posted by Janus on 03/14/11 at 10:30 PM | #

Along with UK’s Sunday Times,  The First Post also highlighted John Kercher’s latest excellent article that included his feelings and some of the overwhelming evidence that was used to convict Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of his daughter.

This March 14, 2011 The First Post title reads,



Posted by True North on 03/15/11 at 01:30 AM | #

Mr. Kercher’s dignified, but strong, statement of his views about the fairness of the verdicts in Perugia was indeed very moving.  The last two points in his bulleted list compellingly reveal how inept the pair was at covering their tracks immediately after the murder.

How could Sollecito have known that nothing had been taken from the room allegedly broken into and ransacked when the occupant herself hadn’t yet returned?  How could Knox have described the position of Meredith’s body and the manner of her death since she had not been able to see into Meredith’s room when the door was broken down?  No one forced them to make those statements; the pressure of police interrogation can’t be blamed.  The list, unfortunately, could go on and on. 

It is a pity that, until the appeals have been exhausted, Meredith’s family may well have to keep hearing strident claims that justice was not served.  Amanda Knox’s family and friends will presumably continue to lash out against the verdict, aided by their PR machine.  It’s too bad, however, that venues like the Lifetime documentary continue to slant the case in Knox’s favor.  Although in my opinion the Lifetime film has some merit, the documentary is another thing altogether. 

The Lifetime people tried to cram too many voices into too small a framework, and so editing may have been a problem.  Some kind of summary of the crucial points against both Knox and Sollecito as well as Guede (who is clearly made to appear guilty) would have put any criticisms of the investigation and prosecution into perspective.  Although some facts against the accused are cogently made, too much time is given to people uttering inane statements on behalf of Knox.

In the documentary Edda Mellas, for instance, asserts that an individual looking at the case with unbiased eyes would throw out all the evidence that isn’t really evidence.  What about the mass of evidence that is not being re-examined?  Is the appeals court expected to ignore it?  In the context of all the negative publicity about Knox early on, her friend Madison Paxton proclaims that “the character had to fit the crime, or it didn’t make sense that she was arrested.” 

Did she forget that Knox was convicted on evidence brought out at a trial, not on her reputation?  Did Knox help her own reputation by wearing in court that “All you need is love” tee-shirt?  Curt Knox even claims that the defense broke down everything the prosecution presented!

The Lifetime people should also have checked various statements before deciding to include them.  Lawyer Ted Simon, for example, says that Curatolo had to be mistaken about seeing Knox and Sollecito in the piazza that night with buses taking students to the discos, as the discos were closed because of the holiday and therefore the buses weren’t running.  Someone posting a recent comment on this site, however, reminded readers that Rudy Guede himself went dancing at a disco after leaving Meredith to die.

Ted Simon also posits as plausible the theory of an actual break-in, supported by a quick-moving clip of someone climbing up that makes it impossible to judge the difficulty of scaling that wall.  Surprisingly, too, the documentary states that it has never been proven whether Sollecito called 112 before or after the postal police arrived.  Didn’t his cell phone records reveal the time of the call as after the police pulled in and came to the cottage? 

As in the Lifetime film, Giuliano Mignini comes across in the documentary as composed and rational, giving no impression that he has an ax to grind.  He emphasizes the facts, such as the numerous contradictions by Knox.  Too bad that Lifetime didn’t include others from the prosecution side, such as Stefanoni and Comodi, to balance the numbers on behalf of Knox.

Along with many others commenting on this site, I think it’s highly unlikely that anything will emerge to overturn the guilty verdict.  I would also hope (but am not optimistic) that one of the convicted might tell what really happened, if only to get some minimal reduction of their sentence.  Guede has nothing to gain, with his appeals finished.  At this point, neither Knox nor Sollecito seems likely to admit the truth. 

Last week on Ash Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think of lives brutally taken away, not least the young like Meredith.  We all hope to be able to fulfill our potential through the course of our natural life span, all too brief as it is.  I also thought about the irony of Knox’s Jesuit school background: she seems oblivious to the core values of Catholicism (not to mention the Fifth Commandment).  I wondered, too, if Knox has gone to Confession while in prison. 

If there is a thoughtful priest at Capanne, perhaps he can encourage this Jesuit-trained girl to reflect on some of the lessons she didn’t learn well enough.

Posted by Tullia on 03/15/11 at 09:44 PM | #
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Or to next entry Meredith’s Perugia #31: Naples Area Where Meredith Was So Happy On A School Visit

Or to previous entry “The Strange Case of Miss Carla” John Kercher’s Brilliant Idea Of A Tribute To Meredith