Knox covers face as murder scene video shown in court

By Calvin Palmer

Amanda Knox, the American accused of murdering British student Meredith Kercher, covered her face with her hands as video footage of the murder scene was shown in court today.

Knox, 21, from Seattle, and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, are standing trial for the murder and sexual assault of Kercher. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Kercher’s body was found on November 2, 2007 in the apartment she shared with Knox. Prosecutors allege she was killed during what began as a sex game, with Sollecito holding her by the shoulders from behind while Knox touched her with the point of a knife.

Prosecutors have alleged that a third man, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, tried to sexually assault Kercher and then Knox fatally stabbed her in the throat. Guede was convicted of the murder in a separate trial in October last year and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

As the police video began with exterior scenes of the house in Perugia, Italy, Knox shared with Kercher, the American student exchanged grins with Sollecito, seated a few yards away, mouthed a message to him and chewed gum.

When the footage turned to Kercher’s bedroom — showing the victim’s bloodied face, with her eyes open, and a foot sticking out from a duvet on the bloodstained floor — Knox frowned and looked away and then put her hands over her face, keeping her head down but occasionally peeping through her fingers at the screen. Sollecito continued to stare at the footage with no expression.

The video, shot on the day Kercher’s body was discovered, showed Kercher’s bra on the bedroom floor, and blood on the bedroom door handle as well as on the tap of the adjoining bathroom.

The prosecution claims the torn clasp of the bra has Sollecito’s DNA on it and Knox’s DNA is mixed with Kercher’s in the bloodstains on the bathroom tap.

It also claims Knox’s DNA was found on the handle of a kitchen knife, believed to be the murder weapon, found at Sollecito’s flat. The knife had been cleaned with bleach but had traces of Kercher’s DNA on the tip.

Prosecutors say Knox’s footprint was in the blood beneath Kercher’s body.

The video showed a handprint in blood on the wall of Kercher’s bedroom, later identified as that of Guede. His handprint was also found on Kercher’s pillow.

The footage showed a large stone under a desk in the bedroom of Filomena Romanelli, one of two Italian women who shared the cottage with Knox and Kercher.

The defense says that the stone, which was used to break a window, is proof that Kercher was killed by a lone burglar. The prosecution argues Knox and Sollecito broke the window in a clumsy attempt to simulate a break-in.

Forensic scientists say that only one of Ms Knox’s fingerprints – on a glass in the kitchen – was found at the cottage even though she lived there. Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor, said that this was because the cottage was cleaned up after the crime.

Reporters were asked by the judge to leave the court at the point where the video showed the duvet being pulled back to reveal Kercher’s bruised and naked corpse.

Earlier Alberto Intini, the head of the Italian police forensic science unit, rejected allegations by the defense that DNA, fingerprint and footprint evidence should be discounted because the scene of the crime was contaminated.

Intini said that although “total elimination of contamination” was impossible, the forensic scientists who entered the cottage in Perugia where Ms Kercher was murdered in November 2007 had taken precautions to reduce it to a minimum.

The Italian police’s forensic science unit had more than 100 years of experience, he said. Its modus operandi was less rigid than in Anglo-Saxon countries, but internationally recognized rules of police procedure were observed.

“DNA doesn’t fly, like pollen or hair, or get thrown upon things here and there,” Intini said. “Even if in theory contamination can never be ruled out, it is not easy for it to happen, and there must be direct contact.”

Intini said a Nike trainer shoe print in Kercher’s blood was compatible with shoes owned by Sollecito but agreed, when cross-examined by the defense, the print was also compativle with shoes owned by Guede.

A shoebox for the shoes was found in Guede’s flat, though the shoes themselves have not been traced.

Intini said that persistent allegations by defense lawyers that the murder scene had been contaminated because objects such as Kercher’s mattress and wardrobe doors had been moved between the first inspection of the cottage on November 2, 2007 and the second on December 18 were misplaced because moving objects was normal practice.

[Based on reports by The Times and Associated Press.]

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