EDITOR'S NOTE: A year and nine months after the following article was published, Amanda Knox was acquitted of the murder and released from prison. —October 3, 2011
Italian prosecutors believe a drug-fueled sex game preceded the murder of Meredith Kercher. Though Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were convicted last week of the crime, the prosecution could not prove a motive, saying: “We live in an age of violence with no motive. We don’t know what sparks these things.” What did spark it? This speculative fiction is based on the prosecutor’s time line in the Knox and Sollecito trial. The gaps in the time line are filled in with fictional events. The sources of certain details are noted in the margins. All of the dialogue is invented. (A third person, Rudy Guede, was also convicted of participating in the murder last year.)
Even on this leafy, scenic, romantic hill, whose stairs lead up to the Via della Pergola, needles are all over the place.1 The junkies will use any amount of cover from the main streets and plazas to plunge hard drugs into their veins. Some of the needles on the ground are fresh—blood on their tips. Others are old and caked with mud. Because last night was Halloween, there are more fresh needles than usual.
At 4:00 p.m.,2 as the air begins to go from cool to cold, Meredith Kercher, a British student from Leeds University, is walking along Pergola. She is 21, with long hair, dark eyes, and slightly brown skin (a consequence of the Indian side of her family). She has just left the cottage, her new home, and is heading to a friend's place to hang out with her countrywomen. Unbeknownst to her, she will be dead in a few hours, in her own bed, her head on a pillow saturated with her own blood. The countryside is utterly enchanting, and all around her is the smell of the ancient stones and the lusty sounds of Italian. She can also hear an American sound—the dribbling of a basketball, the patter of sneakers, the racket of the rim from a failed shot.
A few minutes later,3 Amanda Knox and her boyfriend of two weeks, Raffaele Sollecito, emerge from the cottage—behind them, the hills of Umbria. Knox, a 20-year-old American, is Kercher's roommate. Both moved into the cottage at the beginning of the semester (the end of August); both attend the Universita per Stranieri (the University for Foreigners). The other two roommates are Italian and not home. After three months of living together, Knox and Kercher are not getting along4. Knox is a bit messy, likes to play her guitar with no warning, and brings all sorts of men home. Kercher keeps a cleaner house and is more conservative with5 men, though she, too, has a new boyfriend.
Sollecito, who became Knox's boyfriend soon after they met, is 23, grew up in Bari (the center of the prosperous Puglia region), collects knives,6 and is about to complete a degree in computer science. Sollecito's mother died not too long ago, and his father, a urologist, remarried not too long ago. Life must go on.
At 4:05 p.m., Sollecito and Knox leave the gate of the cottage and walk to his apartment on Via Garibaldi. Two hours later, enough time to thoroughly fuck (all new lovers fuck like crazy), Knox leaves Sollecito's house.7 She has to work tonight. She has a job at the bar Le Chic. As she walks to her job, her lover is at his apartment preparing to watch the film Amelie8—it's going to be a slow and uneventful evening for him. But then a fateful text arrives on Knox's phone. The text is from the owner of Le Chic, Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese reggae singer who opened his bar—with 70,000 euros, part of the money coming from a loan, another part from savings—two weeks before Knox's semester started. The text9 informs Knox that Le Chic does not need her tonight. Lately, Le Chic has needed her less and less. To make matters worse, Lumumba is planning to demote her from waitressing to handing out flyers. Even worse than that, Lumumba has said he may be hiring Kercher to replace her. Knox decides to return to Sollecito's apartment.
On her way back, Knox runs into Rudy Guede.10 He is eating a spicy kebab at Il Cedro, which is up the road from the University for Foreigners. Guede loves to speak the little English he has mastered and usually prefers American foods, like hot dogs and hamburgers. His goal in life is to be a black American. But he has a connection with Ali, the Lebanese owner of the kebab shop, who spends a part of the year in Guede's home country, the Ivory Coast. They talk about friends and family there.
"Hey, Amanda, how you living?" asks Guede, who came to Italy when was 5, was abandoned by his father when he was 16, tried to become a professional basketball player in the Italian league when he was 18, and is now a petty drug dealer11 and a notoriously aggressive womanizer.
"I'm heading to my boyfriend's," says Knox.
"Boyfriend? Already? And it's not me?" Anyone who has visited Guede's Facebook page knows that he has a very high estimation of his appearance. Indeed, he thinks he is as handsome as his number one hero, Kobe Bryant—a professional basketball player accused of rape in 2003. "You seen Meredith? What's she doing?" Guede asks12—he met Kercher for the first time a few days ago while visiting one of Knox and Kercher's Italian roommates in the cottage; the second time he saw her was last night, at a Halloween party. Kercher was dressed as a vampire.
Knox grins and says, "You like her?"
Guede shrugs and changes the subject. "You need anything?" he says. A thin gold chain is around his neck. "Your boyfriend need anything?"
Knox sees her night opening up, how nice it would be to spend it smoking hash with her boyfriend.13 She wonders if he has any cash.
Knox continues her walk to Sollecito's apartment, where Sollecito is on the phone with his father. When Knox shows up, Sollecito ends the call and kisses his all-American girlfriend, and she says, "Just saw Rudy." They agree they're going to enjoy their night, spend it in bed, smoke some hash first. "He's just down the road," she says. Because of the illegal nature of their business, and because they don't want to answer their phones stoned, and because when they have sex again, Sollecito doesn't want his dad to call in the middle of it (his father never stops calling until a phone is answered), Sollecito and Knox turn off their phones14 and leave the apartment.
At 9 p.m., Kercher has returned from dinner and is back at the cottage. She leaves the kitchen, passes a window (most of Umbria, through the window, is dark), enters her room, gets into the bed, and begins reading lecture notes. She has a few hours of life left.
At 8:05 p.m., Sollecito and Knox find Guede at the basketball court near the Piazza Grimana.15 He is shooting in the dark and repeatedly missing the basket—clearly loitering, looking for students to sell to. Sollecito approaches Guede and asks how much; Guede names a price. Sollecito, short on cash, turns to Amanda, who is also short on cash. Knox asks Guede if he will at least smoke them out. Guede cannot say no to a pretty lady.
Kercher is home when Knox, Sollecito, and Guede arrive. They stand outside for a while, waiting for an opportunity to get stoned, but they are too visible and the street is too busy. 16 When a car breaks down in front of the cottage, Knox invites Sollecito and Guede inside to smoke up.17 Sollecito asks if it's okay to smoke inside, because he knows Knox and Kercher have been going at it over Knox's messiness.
While they are in the kitchen, cutting mushrooms20 with a knife Sollecito brought to the cottage a few days ago to prepare a meal to impress his American girlfriend, Guede sees a purse on the table. He opens it and finds 200 euros inside. He quickly pockets the money as Sollecito exits the kitchen and hands him the joint.
"What are you doing?" Kercher says a few minutes later, emerging from her bedroom.
"We're smoking hash, Mez," Knox says, lighting up.
"It's good to see you again," says Guede.
Kercher turns, sees Guede, and then her purse—it's open. She looks inside. "I had 200 euros21 right here," Kercher says. Silence. "It's my rent money. It was right here." She looks at Guede, who is known to live on the edges of crime. "Did you see it?" He grins and takes a big drag. "Do you have it?" she asks.
Knox exhales a cloud of hash smoke from her lungs and says, "God, Meredith, you're such a bitch."
"You think I took it because I'm black?" says Guede. "You think I took it 'cause I'm black!22 You think I took it 'cause I'm black!"
"Jesus, Meredith," Knox says.
"Look, it was there a minute ago," says Kercher, as a cloud of smoke passes her face. "And I don't want you to smoke hash in my place."
Knox explains knowingly that in Seattle, college students smoke grass indoors all the time, and besides, there are too many people passing by to do it outside. She adds, "You are a bitch. And a prude. I've always wanted to tell you that. From the day I first met you, a prude."23
"You lost it last night," Guede says to Kercher. Adding, "That was wild times. And you looked hot." He had been at the same Halloween party.
"I am not a prude, Amanda," Kercher says.
"Yes, you are! Yes, you are!" Knox says, bursting into childish laughter.
"I am not."
"Well, it's nice to see you again, Meredith," Guede says. "Hash?"
"Have you heard how she talks—a fucking prude," Knox says.
"Will you stop saying that," Kercher says.
Sollecito says, "Whatever, Meredith, prove you aren't a prude."
"I don't think she's ever done it with a black guy," Knox tells Sollecito, and then says, "You've never done it with a black guy, have you, Mez? Have you ever even had an orgasm?" Knox laughs.
"Have you, Meredith?" Guede asks, standing from the couch.
"I want you out of my house," Kercher demands. "And I'm calling the police about the money."
"You ever done it with a black guy?" Guede asks, touching Kercher's arm. "You know about black guys?"
"Get your hand off me!" Kercher says.
"I knew it!" Knox says, squealing, a long stream of hash smoke coming out of her mouth.
Guede grins and touches Kercher's ass.
"They say he's a maniac in the sack," Sollecito says, winking at Guede with comic admiration.
"Get your hands off me!" Kercher says with some worry.
"Mez, I thought you said you weren't a prude," Knox says, grabbing for Sollecito's crotch and kissing him.
"First thing you gotta do is relax," Guede says, sliding his hand down the front of Kercher's pants. A stunned Kercher tells him to get the fuck out. Knox picks up Sollecito's knife from the kitchen sink. It's huge and dangerous, and Knox waves it around in front of Kercher's face.
"Don't make us force you to enjoy it, little Miss Mez," Knox says. "God, Raffaele, this knife is insane."
"Take off your bra," says Sollecito. "Or I could cut it off? Think I should cut it off, Amanda?" He picks up a smaller knife.24 At this point, Guede has gotten his hand all the way down Kercher's pants.
"Do you need me to show you how to fuck, Mez? Have you ever been shown how to fuck? I've been showing Raffaele." Kercher struggles and kicks, Guede holding her hands behind her back, and then she screams—a loud, bloodcurdling scream escapes the cottage.25 It is heard by a woman across the street. Kercher is threatening to bust them for drugs, for stealing from her, for—
Sollecito, Knox, and Guede cover Kercher's mouth and push her into the bedroom. Her attackers begin to pull off her clothes. She struggles and begs to be left alone. She is violently pushed to the floor and her head hits the bottom of a cupboard.26 While on the ground, Sollecito attempts to unclasp her bra. It won't give, so he uses his knife to slice it open.27 She is on all fours and half naked. Guede inserts his hand into her vagina.
"There, you enjoying that, you little shit?" screams Knox. "You think I don't know about Patrick hiring you? You think you're so beautiful! Look at you now." Knox laughs weirdly. This is the heart of darkness. There is no going back to the light. A feeling of raw power has overwhelmed their senses. All that is left is the escalation of the violence. Knox's blade slashes Kercher's right hand—first blood is drawn. 28 Sollecito holds the knife to her neck to get her to stop flailing and ends up stabbing her in the neck. She cries in pain but the wound is not deadly. Despite the injury, Kercher continues to struggle—she can see the door, she wants to stand, reach it, and flee from the cottage.
"Fuck," Sollecito says to Kercher. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
To silence her crying, and possibly to impress her boyfriend, who at this moment of panic looks like a radiant villain and not the ever-so-lovable Harry Potter, Knox delivers the fatal blow to the throat. Kercher collapses on the floor of her bedroom and begins her departure from life.
Eventually, the attackers realize they are watching Kercher die. They do not call an ambulance because they would be in deep trouble with the law if she were to survive. They already passed the point of no return. (Knox and Sollecito don't have a history with the law.) The blood keeps flowing from Kercher's wound. There is blood everywhere. Guede's stomach suddenly turns. He rushes out of the room, enters the bathroom, and takes an explosive shit.29
A sober Knox and Sollecito take Kercher's mobile phones and leave the cottage. Guede, who is in the bathroom, grabs a number of towels, reenters Kercher's room, and attempts to stop the blood that's still flowing from her wound. The blood will not stop. The human body has so much blood. Blood is everywhere. Guede places a pillow under Meredith's head and leaves the bedroom.
After dumping Kercher's mobile phones in a garden30 along Via Sperandio and spending several hours at Sollecito's apartment, Knox and Sollecito return to the cottage to clean up the crime scene. They have now completely come to their senses—they do not in fact live in the jungle but in a human society. The police will eventually arrive, investigate the death, and begin to look for the killers. This is how things are done in human societies. The two attempt to clean the rooms, to remove footprints, and to make the crime look like a burglary by breaking the window that faces the sleeping city of Perugia.31 After Knox puts some spoiled clothes in the washing machine, she walks into Kercher's room. Sollecito is staring at the corpse. Knox walks by him, covers the corpse with a feather quilt, stands and looks at her Italian boyfriend. He has a blank expression on his face. "It's really okay—we didn't do this. Everyone will understand. We didn't do this."
1.When Charles Mudede visited Perugia in January 2007, he noticed used needles everywhere.
2. 4:00 p.m. is the time Kercher left the cottage, according to prosecutors.
3. Knox and Sollecito left the cottage “a few minutes later,” according to prosecutors.
4. It was widely speculated in the British press that the two women did not get along. Knox’s defense team denied this.
5. It was widely speculated that Kercher and Knox argued about hygiene and dating.
6. Sollecito “collects knives,” his father told the press. London’s Telegraph: “Sollecito had an obsession with knives and swords.”
7. Knox leaves Sollecito’s house at 6:00 p.m., according to the prosecutor’s time line.
8. “Sollecito interacts with his laptop to watch the film Amelie,” according to the prosecutor’s time line.
9. The exchange of texts and the time Knox returned to Sollecito’s is all according to prosecutors.
10. This interaction with Guede is fictional.
11. Daily Mail: Guede was “known as a petty thief and small-time drug dealer.”
12. Guede’s attraction to Kercher is speculative.
13. Knox and Sollecito did end up smoking hash that night, they both admit.
14. At 8:46 p.m., Sollecito turned off his cell phone, according to prosecutors. It’s unclear why. He had been talking to his father earlier.
15. This scene is entirely invented.
16. Sollecito and Knox were seen outside the cottage with “a suspicious attitude,” according to prosecutors.
17. Knox, Sollecito, and Guede entered the cottage at 11:20 p.m., according to prosecutors.
18. Mez was Meredith Kercher’s nickname.
19. All of the motives and dialogue in this scene are invented.
20. According to prosecutors, Kercher ate “a mushroom” in her kitchen earlier. A knife belonging to Sollecito was discovered later by police at his house, possibly with Kercher’s DNA on the tip and Knox’s DNA on the handle, though that is disputed by the defense.
21. Daily Mail: “Detectives know that Meredith withdrew 200 euros to pay her rent money just days before she was murdered.”
22. In court, Guede made much of his race.
23. Jealous sexual tension between Knox and Kercher was heavily speculated on in the British press.
24. The actions described here are purely speculative.
25. A neighbor heard a loud scream. According to the prosecutor’s time line, a scuffle begins at 11:25 p.m.
26. According to prosecutors, Kercher “is taken by the neck, then banged against a cupboard.”
27. Time magazine: Kercher’s bra was “apparently sliced off.”
28. The knife wounds described are real. Prosecutors successfully argued the blows were dealt by Knox and Sollecito. The defense argued that they were inflicted solely by Guede.
29. Guede’s unflushed feces was found in the toilet.
30. Kercher’s cell phones were found in a garden, but it’s unknown how they got there.
31. According to the prosecution, “in the depth of the night the two… will return to the scene of the crime to try and clean up some footprints and to break the windowpane of a room in Via della Pergola with the aim of simulating a robbery ending in murder.”
This article has been updated since its original publication.
UPDATE: On October 3, 2011, Knox was acquitted of murder and released from prison.