Hounding Amanda Knox’s supporters

I’m sure I cannot be the only person to notice one of the more disturbing aspects of the Meredith Kercher murder case. That is, how many observers around the world, most of them wholly unconnected with these events, have joined forces to vilify Amanda Knox, her alleged killer, as a ruthless, degenerate liar undeserving of sympathy or understanding. Equally chilling is the Knox haters’ readiness to excoriate anyone who doubts or questions Knox’s role in Kercher’s murder. Those attacks, naturally enough, have been carried out anonymously, almost wholly online, through social media. It is clear when you read several long established blogs, forums and twitter feeds dedicated to the memory of Meredith Kercher, that anyone outside the anti-Knox camp, is regarded as an enemy of truth and justice and ipso facto also condemned to eternal hell and damnation. Anyone who rightly claims that Knox’s and Sollecito’s role in the murder has so far not been proven without reasonable doubt, has been come in for often vicious abuse and charged with belonging to a conspiracy to cover up the truth of Knox’s guilt.

One such alleged “conspirator” , the American crime author Douglas Preston, is a prime example of character assassination by the world’s Knox-haters. Preston’s treachery, according to his enemies, is to have given an interview to the website of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in which he said he thought Amanda Knox was innocent. His other crime was to have written a true account of his own investigations with a fellow Italian journalist, Mario Spezi, into a series of grisly murders allegedly committed by the so-called “Monster of Florence” during the 1970s and 1980s. The identity of the monster has never been proven. The reason for the Knox-haters’ attacks on Preston and Spezi, both of whom I have interviewed in the past, long before the Kercher murder, is that both men became involved with the Chief Prosecutor of Perugia, Giuliano Mignini, who eventually headed the investigation into Kercher’s murder. In previous years, Mignini had been involved in probing the Monster of Florence murders: in their book, The Monster of Florence, both authors cast doubt on the soundness of Mignini’s investigation, especially his theory that the killings were part of Satanic rituals carried out by high-ranking members of a local cult. Mignini ordered the arrest of Preston and Spezi and both men were charged with attempting to derail his investigation. Preston was arrested in Florence and hauled up for interrogation by Mignini. Although charged with various offences, he avoided imprisonment and returned to the US. Spezi wasn’t so lucky. After lengthy interrogation, he was imprisoned in Perugia’s grim Capanne jail for over three weeks before Mignini bowed to worldwide public pressure and released him, but not before he was charged with numbers of crimes including the allegation that he was the Monster of Florence. While Spezi was soon cleared of all charges, ironically, Mignini was himself subsequently charged and convicted of abusing his judicial powers. None of this has prevented Knox haters from praising Mignini’s investigation into Kercher’s murder or continuing to accuse Spezi and Preston and anyone connected with them, of being criminals.

If nothing else, Preston’s and Spezi’s run in with Mignini and the later investigation of Meredith Kercher’s murder illustrate three important aspects of Italian culture and its justice system. First is the extent to which superstition, primitive belief in the powers of good and evil and the presence of occult forces still lingers in parts of Italy, including the areas around Florence and Perugia. Another cultural quirk is the enduring and widespread Latin view of all women as either madonnas or whores – the latter being the category to which Amanda Knox was immediately consigned by many Italians, including Giuliano Mignini. As in the Monster case, he railed against the forces of darkness and claimed Meredith Kercher was a victim of a drug-fuelled, sado-masochistic sex ritual that went wrong.

The third disturbing feature to emerge from the Monster of Florence case and that of Kercher’s murder is the degree to which police procedure in Italy – and also to some extent in France, Spain, Greece, Portugal – is often fatally flawed from the very outset of a criminal investigation. Common slip ups include contamination or loss of vital evidence, slow and sloppy police procedure, failure to promptly and fully seal off the crime scene and flawed forensic work. Given the questionable validity of scientific evidence presented by the prosecution in some murder cases, it would be astonishing if this did not result in unsafe convictions.

In fact, many believe Kercher’s killer is already behind bars. Rudy Guede, originally from the Ivory Coast, was soon discovered to have been at the scene of Kercher’s murder. Guede went on the run immediately after her body was discovered.Eventually arrested in Germany, he was brought to trial and convicted of the murder on the basis of DNA evidence, including semen traces, linking him to the murder scene. Although Guede confessed having been present, his claim – supported by thousands of Knox-haters – that he did not act alone and that he was joined by Knox and Sollecito in the attack on Kercher, remains unproven. Several footprints and DNA traces remain unidentified: might it not be that others did join Guede during his murderous binge, but that they remain as yet unidentified ?