Knox/Sollecito: How to spot a fake burglary.

In the ongoing appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito against their convictions for the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2007, attention has recently been focussed on two pieces of evidence, a clasp from the victim’s bra and a knife, said by prosecutors to be incontrovertible proof linking the DNA of the two suspects to the crime. There will be more courtroom discussion about that in September but, as things stands, it does not seem easy to guess what the view of the court with regards to these two items will eventually be.

If the DNA from the knife and clasp proves resilient to assaults on its value, then it would seem likely that the convictions will be upheld. But what if that is not the case? Supporters of Knox and Sollecito will point out the central position of this DNA evidence within the prosecution case. Take it away, and what is left? Those who believe that Knox and Sollecito are guilty will argue in return that there is plenty left. This was never a case that hung by a single thread.

In a way, both sides may be right. Clearly, if you take away two pieces of evidence that, essentially, purport to show that Knox stabbed Kercher and that Sollecito removed her bra after she died, then the case against them can only be weakened. But by how much? Can the rest of the evidence stand up on its own, or has it always relied on the knife and clasp to hoist it out of the mists of uncertainty through corroboration?

Prosecution lawyers have said that, even if the current battle is lost, there is still DNA evidence, in the form of mixed samples from Kercher and Knox found at the scene, which they believe is equally compelling. But that is one of a number of possible views on the case. In the event that the knife and clasp go MIA, I wonder whether the best part of the prosecution case to deputise might be the question of whether Knox and Sollecito faked a burglary at the crime scene in an attempt to cover up their crime.

The day after the murder, police officers arrived at the flat where it had happened because two mobile phones used by Kercher had been found abandoned. When they arrived, Knox and Sollecito told them that they were concerned because their appeared to have been a break-in and there were spots of blood in the flat. A short while later, Kercher’s bedroom door was broken down and her body was discovered.

Investigators soon arrived at a belief that the apparent break-in was in fact simulated. This was, perhaps, the earliest indication that Knox and Sollecito were involved in the murder. Apart from Kercher, Knox had been the only person in town with a key to the flat. What’s more, it seemed unlikely that anyone else could have a motivation to interfere with the crime scene in the manner that had taken place. A burglary would draw attention away from the occupants of the flat, but from who else? And since the other occupants of the flat were not in town…

The potential power of a staged crime scene hypothesis is shown by a study conducted in 2000 by the forensic scientist Brent Turvey. This looked at twenty years’ worth of US criminal cases where a crime scene had been staged and attempted to identify commonalities between them. Although this turns out to be only 25 usable cases (all domestic homicides), what is striking is that in 11 of them, convictions appear to have been secured purely on the basis of police and expert testimony as to the staging. And in all the other cases, the additional support to this testimony came in the form of some sort of confession or self-implicating statement by an offender (which is relevant, because Knox made a statement accusing her boss of the murder and placing herself at the crime scene, which she later retracted).

This doesn’t provide a solid guide to the chances of the current appeal being upheld purely on the basis of the burglary having been staged, because Turvey is not able to tell us about the number of cases where there was an acquittal despite an allegation of crime scene staging. But it does give us an indication that such an allegation can be enough to sustain a conviction, provided a court buys into it. Neither DNA evidence, nor eyewitnesses, nor bloody footprints, nor phone intercepts, nor analysis of computer hard-drives are necessarily required.

In Knox and Sollecito’s 2009 trial, the court did exactly that. The appeal is hearing no new evidence on this question, but the judges are entitled to review the evidence from the trial and come to a different conclusion if they so wish. It may be that they have to do just that if the appeal is to be successful. But is that likely?

Methodology

There is no single handbook that gives a definitive explanation as to how the staging of a crime scene can be established. But there does seem to be broad consensus among experts on a number of guiding principles.

Firstly, the question is, primarily and ultimately, concerned with physical evidence in the form of the state of affairs found at the crime scene. Experts differ as to how relevant non-physical evidence might be in certain cases, but it is clear that, with the obvious exception of a confession with regards to the staging, such evidence can only ever be vaguely indicative one way or the other.

The victimololgy of the case (essentially, does anyone benefit from the death of victim?) may be a consideration. But that does not seem to be relevant here. Another factor might be the existence of a potential suspect who has made attempts, apart from the supposed staging, to steer the attention of investigators away from himself (or herself). An example of this might be where a suspect has made a false accusation against someone unconnected to the crime…

But the final proof or disproof of staging is not in such details. It is in the physical arrangement of the crime scene.

There is a long-established view that the investigation into staging should focus not on attempting to prove it, but on attempting to disprove the competing hypothesis (in our case, that there was ever a genuine burglary). This may sound like a pedantic distinction and perhaps it is. But it is held to be important because it provides clarity of method. First you search for evidence which is inconsistent with the competing hypothesis. You then test these inconsistencies against all the known facts of the case. Can they reasonably be given any explanation other than staging? If any inconsistencies then remain, your conclusion must be that the scene was staged.

Perhaps I am labouring this point. But I’d remark that much Internet theorising in this area with regards to the Knox/Sollecito case focuses on explaining how a genuine burglar might have committe the crime, drawing attention to evidence that is consistent with that account: the position of a shard of glass or the way a rock appears to have landed in relation to the window.

I can understand the urge to do this – obviously is is useful to have an alternative to the account offered by the prosecution. But at the same time, it ought to be obvious why such approaches are problematic from a crime scene investigation point-of-view. People who stage crime scenes typically do everything they can think of to ensure that the staging looks as realistic as they can make it look. Therefore, any evidence that is consistent with a genuine break-in is also consistent with staging. You can only disprove the staging by focusing on the alleged inconsistencies. That is a one-sided approach, admittedly. But it is, apparently, the correct approach.

The inconsistencies

This book offer a three-point checklist as a starting point in identifying staged break-ins: were inappropriate items taken?; did the point of entry make sense?; did the hypothetical perpetrator have a high-risk of being seen?

The items removed from the flat, apart from the murder weapon or weapons, were: two mobile phones, later abandoned; Kercher’s bank cards; probably cash; Kercher’s house keys. The cash aside, it is not clear what value these items would have to a burglar. The phones, cards and keys of someone recently murdered are obviously very risky things to take from the scene. Perhaps it might be argued that our burglar didn’t realise that at first. But why the keys? Indeed, why was the door to the room in which the murder took place locked?

Point of entry is discussed below, but it suffices here to say that our burglar has chosen a particularly difficult, perhaps impossible, way of gaining access to the flat. The risk of being seen was also reasonably high. Although it was dark, the point of entry is on the part of the building most visible to passing pedestrians and traffic.

So, we seem to have a case which fits well with these recommended indicators.

This book provides a useful guide to the types of inconsistencies that might be looked for.

Point of entry

The hypothetical point of entry is the green-shuttered window at the top of this photo.

First we consider the point of entry. Specifically, we should be looking for anything that might have made the point of entry impassable (was it barricaded or bolted, for example?); what transfer evidence is apparent (e.g. blood, fingerprints, footprints etc); whether the entry could have been possible in the manner required to commit the crime (this is, we are told, “often the most dispositive feature” in establishing crime scene staging).

Our hypothetical burglar gained entry to the flat through a second-level bedroom window. It was not barricaded or bolted, but the outside shutters were firmly closed – the wood was swollen, so they were wedged in place. They might have been openable from the outside, if with a little difficulty. But this, it has been argued, would have required the burglar to make the ascent twice: once to open the shutters, then back down to the ground to hurl a rock at the window, then finally back up. The first climb would have been speculative – had the shutters been latched on the inside, that would have been the end of the attempt.

The window would also be a strange choice for a burglar on account of its position. It is in full view of the road that passes by the building and, as you can see from the photo, it doesn’t offer an easy climb. To the rear of the building is a balcony, which certainly looks more accessible and is relatively secluded. What can have been in our burglar’s head?

What’s more, no transfer material was found. No dirt or bits of leaves on the wall, no footprints on the bedroom carpet, no nothing. The burglar managed, so it seems, to perform the break-in without leaving a trace of himself.

The trial court was convinced that the window could not be considered a realistic target for a burglar. But, all the same, might the appeal court not see some room for doubt? It looks to all the world like an unlikely point of entry. But, surely, you can’t send two people to prison if there is even a slim chance that the break-in might not have been staged.

Man climbing up wall

Does this photo help the defence case or the prosecution case?

What the textbooks recommend is to perform a reconstruction experiment in order to give a definitive answer to the question. In other words, you get someone (maybe these guys) to attempt the climb. That’s something that investigators never did. Perhaps they felt that the impossibility of the exercise was obvious, or perhaps they didn’t want to risk a success. The defence, though, do seem to have conducted some sort of experiment, as shown by the photo to the right. But why were the results of this never discussed in court? Does the photo show someone succeeding in accessing the window, or failing?

The next relevant question, working through the list, is whether a weapon has been removed from the crime scene and, if so, why? At least one knife must have been used in the murder, but it was not found with the body. How consistent would this be with the actions of a burglar? I don’t think we can be entirely sure that it is inconsistent (after all, for all we know the knife may have been monogrammed), but maybe you have a different view.

Then there is a question of whether the body was moved after the crime was committed, or whether it was dressed or undressed to any degree. Kercher’s bra was found on the floor near the body. The cups were stained with blood on the front side, suggesting that she was wearing it at the time she was stabbed. The bra also bore tiny spots of blood, similar to spots found on Kercher’s chest, suggesting that she exhaled blood onto herself while she was still wearing the bra.

The body was found covered by a duvet, but blood from the body does not appear to have transferred to any great extent to the fabric of the duvet. This suggests that the blood had substantially dried before the body was covered. Our burglar must have hung around quite a while.

The defence argument is that Kercher must have been sexually assaulted after she was stabbed. That would make the motive for the burglary an especially deranged sex attack. Such things are not unheard of, but why would such a burglar waste time rifling through clothes in the neighbouring bedroom (which is what appears to have taken place)? And how does it explain the duvet?

It is also necessary to consider the ransacking. Our burglar seems to have rifled through clothes in the room of one of the occupants of the flat, paid some interest in her laptop, but not actually taken anything of value. Why was he interested in the clothes? What was he hoping to find? Why did he not, instead, go quickly from room to room picking up items of obvious value? Does the existence of an apparent ransacking fit easily with the defence supposition of a particularly unusual sex attack? If this was the motive for the burglary, why did the burglar not make straight for his intended victim? Or, if he decided to look for valuables after the attack, why did he take nothing?

Some glass on a window ledge

The glass on the window ledge

What would seem to be the most convincing evidence of a staging is, however, none of the above. It is all to do with glass. Broken glass was found on the window ledge in a pattern that was consistent with the shutters having been closed when the window was broken. That is, glass was found distributed on the ledge, but no further forward that would have been permitted by the shutters in their closed position.

Both the occupant of the room that had been “burgled” and one of the first police officers on the scene testified in court that they had found shards of glass from the window on top of the belongings found strewn across the room. How could this be possible unless the ransacking had occurred before the window was broken.

So there’s quite a pile of evidence to suggest that the crime scene was staged. How much of it can be explained away? I don’t know. But the difficulty for the defence is the logic of the methodology. If there’s one detail that can’t be reconciled with a genuine burglary, then there must have been a staging. That could be the glass on top of the ransacked possessions. If the appeal judges can’t think of a reason to doubt the witness testimony (I can’t, although that’s not necessarily a guarantee that they won’t), then there must have been a staging. And if there was a staging, Amanda Knox must have been involved in it.

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70 Responses to Knox/Sollecito: How to spot a fake burglary.

  1. cjp says:

    As always, crystal-clear post. This post, along with the powerpoint presentation on TJMK make the police reaction to the scene totally understandable. The pictures showing the actual size of the rock caused me to shake my head and say, “What?”
    I have read posts on other sites where people try to explain the physics behind the trajectory of the rock, speed, path, blah, blah, etc., but I still couldn’t buy it.
    As I have previously admitted, I am a product of CSI TV. But, even without this questionable background, I would expect, at the very least, to see scuff marks, dirt from shoes, and transfer from clothing along the wall. I see no way possible for someone to pull himself/herself into that opening without crushing the glass left on the sill.
    I am a reader, (or lurker) rather than a poster, as I always have more questions than answers, and I usually hop from PMF to JREF to try to form a balanced understanding of both sides of issues, and I have found something that I find a bit curious. I have read the posts from attornies explaining their takes on the case. I have read the debates on the DNA evidence until I can’t see or absorb any more, Obviously, these people are quite knowledgable in their fields,
    But, one thing that I can’t find is a reasoned, lengthy debate by actual investigators. I know of one “former FBI Investigator” whose opinions are well-known, often quoted, and form a cornerstone in the explanation of the belief in Amanda’s and Raf’s innocence.
    I can’t find a site anywhere where a poster has had an ongoing debate that starts out,” I am a retired detective from the NYPD”, and I think…….. Don’t policepeople blog, even as a hobby? Or, have I missed something?

  2. Jerome says:

    Great post Maundy. Presumably, if the Free Amanda crowd are not along shortly, we can also take it that it is accurate.

    One question: all this points to Amanda but not necessarily Raffale. Is that your understanding?

    • maundy says:

      Hi Jerome.

      I think Knox and Sollecito are joined at the hip a bit because each has given the other an alibi. So, as things stand, I think it’s unlikely that the court will acquit one but not the other, although it might be technically possible.

      But, yes, if you just take the staging on its own and ignore the other evidence, it gives you nothing that directly implicates Sollecito, as far as I can see.

  3. Maundy,

    You wrote, “What the textbooks recommend is to perform a reconstruction experiment in order to give a definitive answer to the question.” The defense’s expert witness, Pasquali, reconstructed the throwing of the rock. The prosecution never did, and the defense gets points just for their willingness to put their hypothesis to an empirical test. The momentum of the rock and its point of impact relative to the room are different in the two hypotheses. The actual glass distribution in the room was consistent with Paquali’s reconstruction; therefore, it is inconsistent with Massei’s untested hypothesis. Katody at JREF has suggested that the glass on the window ledge came from the burglar’s removing glass from the window to make space for entry. RoseMontague has commented that Filomena gave differing accounts of how tightly the shutters were closed on different occasions. My hypothesis is that the burglar was mainly interested in cash, perhaps because he was not very successful trying to fence stolen items.

    • maundy says:

      Hi Chris. I don’t know the details of all the hypotheses you are talking about. But, generally speaking, I don’t think any defence argument that centres around the word “glass” is worth much. Embedded glass? Glass on a bedside cabinet? There’s simply no position you can find glass that can lead to a conclusion that the scene is inconsistent with staging. Precisely how firmly closed the shutters were seems like such a minor detail. The fact is they were closed, so it’s necessary to suppose that the window would need to have been reached twice in order to be accessed.

      Pasquali’s reconstruction does show that it would have been possible to hit the window with a missile. Points duly awarded. But why have the defence not made any attempt to demonstrate to the court that the wall is scalable? That’s the single most important thing they could have done, but all we have is what looks like a photo from the cutting-room floor of a failed attempt.

      From the physical evidence, it seems incontrovertible that Kercher was wearing her bra at the time she was attacked and that a considerable period of time elapsed before the body was covered. How are these things explained?

      And what conceivable reason might there be for the appeal judges to ignore the witness testimony about glass being found on top of the ransacked belongings? They need to find one, or else they are forced to conclude that there was a staging.

      • But just as you seem to be doing with the DNA evidence, you’re reversing the burden of proof.

        You can’t just say ‘Prove exactly how the contamination occurred’ or ‘Well it could still have been staged, prove it wasn’t’.

        This ‘glass on top of clothes’ meme is not borne out by any photographic evidence and the crime scene was immediately disrupted by Filomena. Which clothes? The ones which look like they were already on the bed?

        Are you going to send someone to prison for 26 years because someone says there was some glass on top of some clothes? It’s ludicrous.

      • maundy says:

        I don’t know what you mean about reversing the burden of proof, Cody. In this instance, absolutely, the burden is on the prosecution to show that the scene is inconsistent with a genuine burglary. The defence begins with no burden at all. However, once the list of alleged inconsistencies is put forward, the onus passes to the defence to explain how those inconsistencies are not so inconsistent. “It could have been staged, prove it wasn’t” is not what is going on. It’s a case of “here is the evidence of staging, please refute it if you can”.

        I don’t think the lack of clear photographic evidence matters at all with regards to glass-on-top. Two witnesses were absolutely clear and emphatic in their testimony. I can’t see any motive for them to lie, nor can I imagine that they are mistaken about something they both appear so clear about.

        Is that testimony enough on its own? I don’t know for sure. In the hypothetical situation where that was all the evidence there was, I guess it would be up to the court. In principle, if the court thinks that evidence obliges them to reach a certain conclusion, then they are so obliged. But, in any event, it isn’t the only evidence of staging, nor is it the only evidence in the case.

      • But they weren’t clear and emphatic. Filomena at one point said there was glass on top of, among and underneath the clothes.

        The crime scene was disturbed by Filomena. The burglar could also have redistributed glass around the room. There is no photographic evidence.

        This would be laughed out of court in the UK.

        You seem, as Mignini now does, to be concentrating on trivia and unverifiable witness statements rather than the actual meat and potatoes of actual definite evidence that Amanda and Raffaelle murdered Meredith along with Rudy Guede.

      • maundy says:

        Filomena’s testimony is extremely strong. It’s detailed and it gives her thought processes at the time. This isn’t like trying to remember how may times the phone rang or whether you had chocolate or cappuccino on a particular morning eighteen months earlier. This is obviously a state of affairs that she remarked on a committed to memory at the time – the glass was on top of items ransacked at the scene. Plus it’s corroborated by the testimony of a police officer – a police officer – who says he says he saw exactly the same thing.

        You can kid yourself if you like that some court somewhere might scoff at this. But the trial court clearly didn’t. I really can’t see how it would be possible for any court to conclude anything other than that the witness testimony is accurate. Where they go from there may be another matter, of course.

  4. Maundy,

    The Massei hypothesis does not explain how the glass got so far into Filomena’s room. There is no photographic record of glass on top of the clothes. If Filomena is the witness that you mean, then I would say that she disturbed her room by retrieving then returning the computer. I also question how tidy the room was when she first left it. If the shutters were not closed, they could have been moved aside with a long stick, but I agree that this is a minor matter. I agree that a complete reconstruction would have been better, but I seem to recall that Micheli thought it would not take a spiderman to enter through Filomena’s window.

    “In Filomena Romanelli’s room a few items were tested: a hairlike fibre [formazione pilifera] on the lower part of the window frame, and a presumed haematological substance on the wooden part of the window which held the broken pane. Both of these items yielded negative results on analysis.” (Massei report, English translation, p. 193). It would be helpful to know what the negative results were (DNA? confirmatory blood test?), but it is possible that the burglar left these evidence items.

    • maundy says:

      Chris, the court has to approach these questions objectively, and I don’t think it is realistic that it will decide that Filomena must have told lies to the police. She gave a careful account. It’s always possible that she may be mistaken on details or may have described herself as unsure on some details. She said that items in her room were not where she left them and that some of those items had glass on top of them. What is the reason why the appeal court is about to make a turn around and decide that these statements are not reliable?

      I agree that it’s possible that a burglar may have left transfer evidence which was never spotted by police or which it was not possible to get a test result from. But, in evidentiary terms, that’s the same as no transfer evidence.

      • No on is saying that Filomena lied. However, there are a number reasons that I can think of to question how accurate her trial testimony is with respect to the glass and the state of the room. The Cameron Todd Willingham case is an example of how witnesses sometimes change their accounts, probably from confirmation bias stemming from belief that the accused is guilty. Her memory of the shutters changed over time. Filomena discussed her marijuana use in court in rather dramatic terms (“I have sinned”), suggesting to me that subconsciously she felt some need to placate the criminal justice system in Perugia, of which she was a small part (IIRC she was a law clerk). Filomena may be remembering the glass after she disturbed it. Her room and desk look cluttered . She may have been an orderly person in general but just in a hurry to leave that day.

      • maundy says:

        Well, keep you fingers crossed for Amanda that something in what you just wrote is not as straw-grabbing as it sounds.

      • Maundy, If police don’t spot the evidence but others do, I think it still deserves to be noted. There is a bright spot on the lower window casing. There is also a garment that has light colored foreign matter on it. Did the police just do a DNA test on the presumed blood, or did they do a confirmatory blood test. In this instance either test would have been helpful.

      • maundy says:

        Although I can’t be 100% offhand, I believe a DNA test was done, but not a blood test. But I think you may be placing too great a value on testing for the presence of blood. Identifying blood by eye is reasonably reliable in practice. Confirming that it was blood wouldn’t have been very helpful to the burglar thesis in any case, since blood spots from Knox were also present in the room, so it could quite easily have been hers.

        General comment: I don’t think it counts as forensic science to examine a scene purely on the basis of photographs.

    • vinno says:

      If the shutters were not closed, they could have been moved aside with a long stick,

      Just incredible!

      no further comment required!

      • maundy says:

        If the witness testimony that says the shutters were closed is incorrect, then you may be right.

        Presumably, it would need to be a long stick which the hypothetical burglar kept with him and removed from the scene, though.

      • vinno says:

        Hi Maundy, you misunderstood my post the reference to the long stick was a copy and paste from a Chris Halkdes post above, just trying to highlight the stupidity of a burglar using a long stick to open the shutters 3m above him!!

      • maundy says:

        OK. Sorry Vinno. I actually answered your post without reading anything above it.

  5. Maundy,

    I have just seen some photos of the duvet posted at JREF. It is certainly bloody.

    • maundy says:

      I don’t think that the idea is that there was no blood on the duvet. I don’t think there was much in vicinity of the body that did not have blood on it. I think it is more specifically that there was blood on her chest but no corresponding stains on the part of the duvet that was in contact with her chest. I should add that this is in Micheli: “The Scientific Police emphasised stains on K’s chest, not reproduced on the duvet lying over her”. Massei either didn’t hear that evidence or didn’t consider it important for some reason.

  6. Maundy,

    Amanda’s DNA is in Filomena’s room, but there is no reason to conclude that her blood is there. Luminol is a presumptive test, not a confirmatory one, and DNA profiling does not have anything to do confirming the presence of blood. With respect to the duvet, I am not sure what you think is evidence that the duvet was moved several hours after it was first placed. I think it may have been moved shortly after it was first put over Meredith’s body.

    • maundy says:

      You’ve lost me there, Chris. The proposition is that there was blood on the victim that didn’t get transferred to the duvet. Assuming this is correct, it must have dried, so the two surfaces must have come into contact a reasonably long time after death. I can’t work out what your objection to this is.

      • Now I am confused. How do you know that there was blood from the victim that did not get transferred to the duvet? My tentative hypothesis is that the presence of multiple patches of blood are the result of the duvet’s being moved. I don’t have a detailed hypothesis yet.

      • maundy says:

        The thing about the blood is from the Micheli report on Rudy Guede’s conviction. I quoted it above. Micheli says that the blood had dried because “the Scientific Police emphasised stains on K’s chest, not reproduced on the duvet lying over her”. I don’t really get why you think the duvet was moved, or what relevance it might have. The point is that part of the duvet came into contact with with Kercher’s chest a significant length of time after she had died, and somebody must have been around to put it there. All of that assumes, of course, that Micheli is correct. And, it should be added, similar testimony will have to have been heard at some point in the K&S process, or else the appeal won’t be taking it into consideration.

  7. Maundy,

    Do you dispute the general proposition that witnesses are not correct 100% of the time? Do you dispute that witnesses in the Todd Willingham case changed their accounts over time? Do you dispute that Filomena’s memory of the state of the shutters changed with time? Did Filomena’s desk look tidy or cluttered? If you don’t dispute these points, then why do you think they are not relevant?

    I am still waiting for someone to defend Massei’s hypothesis of how the window was broken, in spite of its failure to explain the glass so far into the room. Your analysis of the best place to break into the cottage does not appear to take into account the streetlight and headlights from cars. streetlights

    • maundy says:

      Witnesses are not correct 100% of the time, of course, but that is not a reason to reject witness testimony you don’t like at will. In this case, we have two witnesses giving very clear, detailed and corroborating accounts.

      Massei doesn’t have to explain “glass so far into the room”. There’s no reason to suppose that’s not consistent with any particular scenario. There’s no limit to the different ways in which the glass could have travelled depending on the precise dynamics of what happened. There’s a hundred reason’s why it’s not directly comparable, but look at this video and notice how far the glass travels. Then think about the size of the room.

      I don’t see what’s relevant about streetlighting etc. The rear of the cottage is lower down and further away from the road and the balcony is obscured by foliage and a building. It’s less exposed. But how exposed it is is not the main point. It’s very obviously much easier to access.

  8. Maundy,
    Have you looked at photos of the duvet? I think that the stains there came directly from contact with Meredith. How do you think that they arrived?

    • maundy says:

      I don’t know. But the issue is about stains that didn’t arrive, rather than those that did.

      • Maundy,

        Here is an interim hypothesis. The attack happened shortly after 9 PM. The duvet was first placed partly over Meredith after she was stabbed. The two-lobed stains came from Meredith’s neck. The duvet was possibly moved once during the assault. Then the attacker left the room to clean up. At some point after he returned, he moved the duvet again to cover her body almost completely. The length of time would have to be sufficiently long for the blood on Meredith’s chest to coagulate and not stain the duvet, and I believe the intruder left slightly before 10 PM. Do you have a citation suggesting why this time would have to be several hours?

        There is another consideration. IIRC, the first officer on the scene denied entering Meredith’s room. Yet it would be surprising that he would not check to see if Meredith were still alive. It is possible that in so doing, he disturbed the position of the duvet. He would have been from the postal police and probably not experienced in this sort of investigation.

      • maundy says:

        In terms of how long the blood would have taken to dry, I would suppose that would depend on how much there was and maybe on some other factors such as temperature, ventilation etc. AFAIK, we don’t have that information. Given the circumstances, I’m supposing it’s a reasonably large amount of blood, though. This experiment suggests 13-20 mins – longer than I would have guessed – for a 0.8 mm drop of blood. So it’s likely to be a lot longer than that.

        The question on the other side of the equation is how long our burglar is likely to have stayed on the scene. If he had a lot of blood on him, I can accept that he might want to do something about that before he goes out in public. But he is also going to want to be away as quickly as he possibly can be. I think an hour is way too long. And why is he re-arranging the duvet in any case?

        Also to be taken into account: Kercher must have bled for some time after she was attacked. So to imagine that she was attacked at a certain time and we can set our drying stopwatch going from that point is probably not correct.

        Yes, it’s a also possible in theory that police officers lie in their testimony, but I don’t think the court will work on that assumption.

  9. If Filomena and the Postal Police noticed immediately that the scene in her room was suspicious, given that glass was on top of clothes, why did they disrupt the crime scene or allow it to be disrupted?

    Why did Filomena say the glass was underneath, among, and on top of the clothes in one statement?

    • maundy says:

      Which statement are you referring to and why would it matter? On top is on top.

      In terms of disrupting the crime scene, you would really have to ask them. But you have to remember that the Postal Police had only turned up to investigate the theft of two mobile phones.

  10. Does it sound to you like recommended police procedure to disrupt a suspicious crime scene before calling forensics?

    A staged burglary is a serious matter regardless of why they were there. Why would they allow the damning evidence of such a crime to be destroyed?

    • maundy says:

      Cody, you’re imagining a scenario that’s different from the actual one, I think. There was no survey to establish the nature of the scene before giving Filomena the go-ahead to tidy her room. It’s clear from her testimony that she noticed the issue with the glass whilst she was tidying. The police on the scene were not homicide detectives and they weren’t aware that a murder had been committed in the building. So they probably said something like “yes, that’s odd”.

      Either that or the two of them made the whole story up. Which version do you think the court will go for?

  11. Maundy,

    Massei wrote, “if one supposes that the rock was thrown from the inside of the room, with the two shutters pulled inwards so that they blocked the pieces of glass from falling to the ground below.” (p. 51, English translation). Neither the point of impact nor the momentum of the rock would be the same as in Pasquali’s reconstruction. Waving away the problem of the glass so far into Filomena’s room is not an argument at all, let alone a convincing one. Massei’s hypothesis failed an experimental test.

    You assign zero significance to the changing of Filomena’s testimony with respect to the shutters over time. Fine. Even if we accept Filomena’s statement that there was glass on top of some of the clothes, there are still some problems with the inference you are trying to draw. One is that there were probably clothes already left out. Filomena was planning a trip with her boyfriend and left in a hurry, IIRC. Filomena’s computer was in her bag and she said, “”I picked up the computer and perceived that in lifting it, I was picking up pieces of glass, in the sense that there was actually glass on top of it.” (p. 53) In pulling her computer out, she may have put glass on the clothes.

    • maundy says:

      Massei’s hypothesis doesn’t fail in terms of experiment at all. There was glass over most of the room, most of it near the window. It’s entirely likely that this is what would have happened under Massei’s hypothesis as well as Pasquali’s demonstration. If you break a pane of glass in a small room, there will usually be pieces in most of the room. I think Massei’s version is the best fit with the physical evidence, but it should also be kept in mind that Pasquali’s version is not inconsistent with a staging in any case. If I had been them I would have thrown the rock from outside.

      Filomena’s testimony is really clear – and I don’t know how many times I will need to repeat this, but it is corroborated by a police officer – that’s the problem for the defence. The laptop bag is an example of the glass on top thing. She says it was upright, but the “burglar” had placed in on its side. Yet there was glass on top of it. How did that happen? I don’t think she says what happened to that glass. Maybe she was caught out in cross-examination on that point. Or not, it would seem. Here’s a thought: maybe she threw it around the room and it landed in the places that are supposedly impossible under Massei’s hypothesis.

  12. Carl says:

    I’ve read through this discussion with interest.

    Opinions:

    The thing about blood not being transferred to the duvet cover definitely looks suspicious but if Massei (that’s the second judge, right?) wasn’t all that interested in it, maybe there is some fact about it that we don’t know that makes it less of an issue.

    I can’t see how a court could ever decide that two separate witnesses statements saying the same thing are just totally untrue. So arguing there was not glass on top of clothes is something you lose before you even begin. But maybe the real question is whether or not this has to mean a fake crime scene. Is there another possibility?

    • I don’t see why. Curatolo said he saw disco buses. He was simply wrong.

      2 separate witnesses noticed a highly suspicious staged crime scene then disrupted it? It stinks to high heaven.

      • Carl says:

        Who’s Curatolo? Is that some famous case? One person being wrong about something doesn’t mean we can never trust witness testimony.

        When you say “stinks”, you must mean that you think they are lying. But it just seems unrealistic that the court will think that.

  13. It doesn’t matter what they said. The primary forensic evidence against knox and Sollecito is gone. There is no objective evidence which proves the burglary was staged.

    The ‘staged burglary’ ‘evidence’ melts away without any real evidence that Knox and Sollecito committed the murder.

    • maundy says:

      I think that puts things backwards, Cody. You can reject the evidence of staging if you feel you have good reason, but it is part of the “real” evidence pointing to the guilt of Knox and Sollecito. You can’t reject it simply on the basis that it is inconsistent with their undoubted innocence.

      • But there’s no evidence. There are only statements. There is no evidence because the crime scene was disrupted by people Mignini claims immediately recognised the scene was staged.

        How do you explain this?

      • maundy says:

        I don’t think it needs explaining. It’s an imaginary problem. Unless there’s a reason to think the witnesses were lying. I doubt Mignini can have made the claim you suggest – surely that would be inadmissible, being the opinion of a lay witness?

        If you don’t accept that witness statements are a type of evidence, then I guess that may enable you to come to certain conclusions, but you’re following a thought-process that isn’t available to the court.

      • You seem very keen to bring the conversation around to ‘you’re accusing the witnesses of lying’.

        At the end of the day, the crime scene was disrupted, and there is nothing apart from these statements, one of which was ambiguous anyway. Witnesses are often mistaken.

        Do you believe Curatolo saw disco buses on a night they weren’t running? Do you believe officer Battistelli when he said he didn’t go in Meredith’s room or the witnesses who say he did? Do you believe Stefanoni did or did not use the TMB test she said in court she had not used? Do you believe Patrick Lumumba killed Meredith? Do you believe Rudy Guede was sitting on the toilet when Amanda and Raffaelle burst in and killed Meredith?

  14. emyr says:

    The room was discovered with a broken window. Amanda and Raffaelle, shocked, entered the room, disturbing the scene, possibly lifting up clothes with glass on them and distributing that glass ON TOP of Filomena’s laptop and other clothes.

    Contrariwise, the burglar could have entered the room, stumbling and knocking things around in the dark, and then turned to close the broken glass window, causing glass to fall from it ON TOP of the items.

    We are not hypothesizing about any burglar, we are specifically hypothesizing about Rudy Guede. A burglar who was known to eat at the places he burgled,to steal minimal items, and to wander around leisurely and act calm when caught. A burglary seems fake with valuable items unstolen. But Rudy Guede had done this before. A difficult height seems improbable, but Rudy Guede had scaled a similair height before. There was a wind that night, the wind could have blown the shutters open.

    Rudy could have thrown his jacket over the glass so he could slide over it without being injured.

    The glass is disbursed through the room,and the interior shutter has a glass shard embedded in it.

    As far as Amanda’s blood being present in the room, or anywhere else, she had no cuts on her body, so blood anywhere (from her) is improbable. Unless you are saying she was menstruating or bleeding from her nose during the staging.

    • maundy says:

      Hi Emyr.

      The problem with your scenario where Knox and Sollecito entered the room and tossed glass about is that, according to their version of events, they didn’t. Plus, it would surely require glass to be on top of Romanelli’s things to start with anyway.

      The burglar could have knocked the window and caused additional glass to fall after he had entered the room. But is that likely to have caused said additional glass to be distributed all around the room? Or just in the immediate vicinity of the window?

      You’re probably aware that there is no hard evidence of Guede as a burglar. But, even if we accept the conjecture that he might have been, your assertion that he “had scaled a similair height before” is unsupported. Some Knox supporters attribute the burglary at the Brocchi and Palazzoli offices to Guede. But whoever committed that burglary accessed the building via a balcony – exactly what our hypothetical burglar decided not to do for some reason.

  15. chris7777 says:

    Maundy. Keep up the open-minded but no BS approach. With a real break-in it would also be inconsistent for a person reporting a theft that had occurred in the room of someone they hardly knew “there was no theft” and “nothing has been taken” before the owner themselves had checked.

    • Those statements are entirely consistent with someone taking a quick look in the room and noticing valuable items were still there.

      • chris7777 says:

        The ‘someone’ would need super x-ray vision such that their ‘quick’ look at a ransacked room could assess with confidence that no passport, cash, jewellery or indeed, underwear, had been stolen.

  16. chris7777 says:

    I think there is a reason for AK to stage break in even if not guilty of murder.

  17. Diocletian says:

    Hi Maundy:

    As reported in the UK press, Filomena testified that, in addition to glass on top of some items, she observed glass underneath of some items. This means that the window was broken before the mess was made, no? And if the window was broken before the mess was made, then that would be consistent with a real breakin?

    • maundy says:

      Hi Diocletian.

      I think it’s a mistake to assume that the ransacking of the room has to be considered as if it were a single action when, obviously, it was actually a collection of actions. If there is glass under some items, then that might indicate that those items were deposited after the window had been broken. But that doesn’t provide us with any explanation as to why some of the items have glass on top of them. Those items, surely must have been deposited before the window was broken. IOW, it is still evidence of a staged crime scene.

      To put it another way, as I said in my post “consistent with a real break-in” is not what the defence need to show. That’s assumed anyway in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. What’s required is to provide alternative explanations for that evidence to the contrary.

      So, the question to answer is: what alternative explanation is there for glass being on top of items that appear to have been part of the ransacking?

      • Diocletian says:

        Thank you for the response, Maundy.

        I think we both sense that glass underneath of some items likely indicates that the window was broken before those particular items were deposited.

        How, then, would glass get on top of some items? There are at least two paths, for glass on top of items, that are consistent with a real break-in: (i) Filomena had been storing the items on the floor and either the glass spray landed on them or the perpetrator on entry knocked glass from the windowsill onto the items, and (ii) the glass fell onto the items when the perpetrator picked up another item that already had glass on it (per the mechanism described in (i)). Although Filomena testified that she was neat, this does not preclude that items were stored on the floor, as clearly appears to be the case for some items shown in the photos (e.g., the handbag and the “rock bag”).

        So, we have glass underneath, which shows us that the window was broken before those items were placed down. And, we have answers for how glass ended up on top of some items (even “ransacked” items) in the case of the the window being broken before the mess was made.

        So it not only seems possible, but I think likely, that we have a real break-in. At the very least, “glass on top” is not at all helpful in distinguishing between a real and a staged break-in.

      • maundy says:

        Explanations like that are one thing in the abstract, but we also need to consider how well they fit the known facts. Firstly, Filomena is specific about where she noticed glass on top of objects. There was glass on top of clothes that had been pulled from the wardrobe, and also on top of her computer case, which had been moved and placed on its side. She isn’t talking about glass on top of things that she may have left on the floor herself – that would obviously be unremarkable.

        I would agree that the possibility can’t be ruled out that glass fell from the windowsill some time after. But this only really matters in respect of any items that might have been in the immediate vicinity of the window. Filomena herself seems aware of the importance of this distinction: “There was glass under the window and also both on top of and underneath the clothes and lying on top of the computer case”. She also tells us that “clothes were thrown around everywhere”, not in a little pile by the window. Both she and Knox tell us that the computer case was on the desk a few feet away.

        So, we’re left with the hypothesis that our burglar did something to redistribute glass around the room post-ransacking. Now, I’ll admit that this can’t be ruled out in the sense that nothing is impossible. But what are the dynamics supposed to be? Look at the objects in this photo. Imagine that any one has glass on it and you pick it up. Where is the glass going to go? I’d say not very far.

        But supposing the judges think it is at all possible. What likelihood do you think they will attach to it? What will they think when they consider this likelihood next to all the other arrows pointing to a staged crimescene?

  18. Diocletian says:

    Unfortunately, Filomena’s actual testimony doesn’t tell us much about the location of things: “There was glass under the window and also both on top of and underneath the clothes and lying on top of the computer case.” We don’t know what clothes she is talking about, or, for that matter, where exactly the computer case was. Infamously, there are no photos of the crime scene in its unaltered state.

    If we assume, as you propose, that she is referring to the wardrobe clothes when she talks about glass “on top of and underneath,” then how do we account for the glass underneath? Again, the window has to be broken before the wardrobe items are scattered. This is not the scenario that Massei assumed, and is entirely consistent with a real burglary.

    In any event, since there is glass underneath, then if there was glass on top of moved items, then there has to have been a method of redistribution whether there was a real burglary or a staged burglary. We could speculate on how that happened (e.g., via movement of the purse), but I’m not sure how productive that exercise would be given the lack of detail about which items were glass-covered/moved/etc. I think the bottom line for me has to be that given glass underneath we very well could have a real break-in.

    There are certainly other things that are cited to support the staged break-in theory, and they are worth consideration as you propose. My point here, though, is just to discuss the glass, and I hope that we may discuss the other items in some other posts.

    • maundy says:

      Filomena’s testimony does, at least tell us that the clothes and the laptop were not by the window. She also tells us that the laptop was on her desk at the other side of the room – this is also confirmed by Knox.

      I don’t think you are correct that we need to assume redistribution of glass in any scenario. If there was a staged break-in, then the simplest fit with the evidence is that there was some ransacking before the window was broken and some after. In the case that the break-in was real, then we need to imagine that there was redistribution of the glass by some means. But it just seems a remote possibility.

      My point about the other things that point to a staged burglary is not to challenge you to address them one by one (although you are quite welcome to), but to highlight that court will be considering the picture holistically. Even if they consider redistribution of glass as somehow realistic, they also have to consider how likely that is to occur in conjunction with the apparent removal of the bra after death, the lack of transfer evidence, the choice of point-of-entry, the unlikely pattern of the search and so on. These things, when taken together, multiply with each other to make a genuine burglary seem less and less likely, in my view.

      • Diocletian says:

        So, you propose: 1. mess-making, 2. window breaking, and 3. more mess making (to end up with glass underneath). I agree that this is possible.

        I propose: 1. window breaking, and 2. mess-making. I think you agree that this is possible.

        It probably would be possible to have a lengthy discussion about which version is more probable, but in the end we still wouldn’t be able to resolve the issue. My point is simply that either one of these things could have happened, resulting in glass on top, and therefore glass on top of anything, by itself, doesn’t tell us anything about whether there was a staging. I think that Massei made a major point that glass on top of moved items proves staging, and he was wrong.

        PS: I’m unclear on what Filomena said exactly, but the clothes are shown in the picture lying in front of the wardrobe and under the window. I believe the testimony shows the laptop and its case to be there, too; I don’t see how it could have been on the crowded desk shown in the picture you posted earlier.

      • maundy says:

        Knox’s statement about the position of the computer is near the top of page 66 of the Massei report.

        I’d amend your version of the burglary slightly: 1. window breaking, 2. mess-making and 3. redistribution of glass by the burglar so that the scene may be mistaken for staged even though it isn’t. It’s part 3 which I think is unlikely to the point of implausibility.

  19. Diocletian says:

    To the extent any item (e.g., the purse) that had glass on it was picked up, there would certainly be a redistribution as the glass fell off onto nearby items. Your qualifier that such redistribution is unlikely to have occurred “so that the scene may be mistaken for staged even though it isn’t,” is circular and wholly dependent upon the good judgment of the person who is making the “mistaken” assessment.

    Since we’re going there, I find it unlikely that the perpetrator would have first made a mess, then broken the window, and then have gone back, and made a further mess. Seems like too many steps, and for that matter, implies a craftiness and deliberateness that the proposed “stager” would not have had, since we would still have ended up with a “ransacking” that is so incompetent that it can be determined right away that we have a staged burglary. While I can accept this as a possibility, I think it’s a leap to use this as the premise that determines that glass on top proves a staging notwithstanding glass underneath.

    Thank you for the Massei cite. I can see what Massei says, but I’m still unclear exactly what Knox and Filomena said about the location of the laptop and/or the laptop case both before and after the crime. More to the point, I think the photograph shows that the laptop case was never on the desk, and therefore, it was on the floor. Was the laptop in the case, and was the laptop on the floor? Not sure.

    • maundy says:

      I agree that glass could have fallen off items if they were picked up but, particularly looking at the available items in the photo, I think it would be generous to concede that individual shards would move more than about an inch away from said item. Plus, we’re required to imagine, in the first place, that, instead of looking for valuables (for example, he could have opened a drawer and found Romanelli’s jewellery), our burglar decides to go about the room picking up and putting down individual bits of clothing and whatnot. Why does he do this?

      I don’t think my version supposes a very well-planned staging at all. Au contraire. I think the stager began the ransacking, but then realised that she was doing things in the wrong order (or, perhaps, had someone else there to point this out).

      Your argument that this is inconsistent with there also being ” a “ransacking” that is so incompetent that it can be determined right away that we have a staged burglary” I find intriguing, though. Do you really think this can be determined right away? If so, then we surely have a staged burglary.

      How can a photograph show that something was never somewhere? In her email home on 4th Nov, Knox is very clear: “i was checking for signs of our things missing, should there have been a burglar in our house the night before. filomenas room was closed, but when i opned the door her room and a mess and her window was open and completely broken, but her computer was still sitting on her desk like it always was”. In her trial testimony, she says: “I think I was talking to Filomena on the phone at the same time, because when I saw the big mess in her room, but everything else seemed okay, nothing seemed to be taken, also the fact that her computer was there, on the table, I said to her, I don’t know what to think”. The question of whether the laptop was in the bag or not is answered halfway down page 53 of Massei.

  20. KG says:

    Here’s one thing I haven’t read anywhere and I wonder what you thought of this.

    For arguments sake, let’s say that Rudy is the burglar that also sexually attacked and killed Meredith; that he somehow scaled up the wall without a trace, that the 2 witnesses were mistaken or lied about the glass, that the duvet has some reasonable explanation, and that the body was not moved afterward.

    Then we must go on the presumption, that Rudy stole Meredith’s keys and locked her bedroom door after he killed her. How does a murderer/burglar leave a bloody handprint on the wall, then leave no traces of himself in the action of locking the bedroom door? His hands were clearly bloody and there is no evidence of his blood in the bathroom suggesting a clean up. How does he magically lock a bedroom door leaving no traces on the handle while locking it up? And there is no logic as to why Rudy would lock it up in the first place and leave the entrance door wide open.

    We would also have to wonder why the discarded cell phones tossed over the ravine did not have biological traces of Rudy on them.

    Let’s face it. It’s either the Lone Wolf theory, or it’s not. And since the defense suggests that it is, the evidence does not match this theory, even if one were to try and explain away everything else about the proposed break-in.

    And for the person that said in a previous post on this blog: “I think there is a reason for AK to stage break in even if not guilty of murder”, your lack of reasoning powers is astounding. There is no logic to this comment.

    BTW: Great synopsis of the information in all of your blogs. Very easy to read, and you bring out the sticking points of both sides of the debate. Good job!

    • chris7777 says:

      Re ‘break in even if not guilty’:

      1. This case has utterly divided people who do not lack powers of reason’
      2. Most commentators agree that only the perpetrators know what really happened.
      3. AK and RS are not experienced criminals and yet neither has ‘broken’ and spilt the beans suggesting innocence – of murder. Nor has utterly blatant evidence been found.
      4. AK’s and RS’ behaviour and statements do not seem compatible with true innocence.
      5. People sometimes do something shoddy, underhand, mean, criminal which unleashes a far worse scenario/crime. They then either confess their shameful behaviour or they ‘go for broke’ and try to cover up all signs of their involvement.

      • KG says:

        Your response makes no sense.

        In what scenario can you think of, where AK would actually stage a break-in into her home, and at the same time be innocent of murdering Meredith?

      • chris7777 says:

        To reply to KG 1st Oct 10.23

        Any scenario in which AK allowed the killer or killers into her apartment to steal from or haze or make advances on MK.

        Tip: this is a very strange case it pays to keep an open mind to every single aspect.

  21. RS_ATL says:

    To add to KG’s points –

    Amanda writes in her 11/4/07 email to friends, family, etc:

    anyway, so the door was wide open. strange, yes, but not so strange that i really thought anything about it. i assumed someone in the house was doing exactly what i just said, taking out the trash or talking really uickley to the neighbors downstairs. so i closed the door behind me but i didnt lock it, assuming that the person who left the door open would like to come back in. when i entered i called out if anyone was there, but no one responded and i assumed that if anyone was there, they were still asleep. lauras door was open which meant she wasnt home, and FILOMENAS DOOR WAS ALSO CLOSED. my door was open like always and meredith door was closed, which to me weant she was sleeping.

    Why would the burglar close Filomena’s door behind him after entering through her window and going into the rest of the house? Or why did the burglar close her door before fleeing the house?

  22. El says:

    There is so much beyond the DNA that with that thrown out I think the appeal court was insane to let them go. There are so many points, so much hard evidence and self incriminating statements, that I must wonder why so many people let this sociopath sway them.

  23. Anony Mouse says:

    RS_ATL – you have just touched on yet another odd point. Filomena’s door being closed was not discussed much on other sites (eg. TJMK) and its the first time it has come to my mind. Its yet another weird action for a lone wolf burglar/murderer to take – what motive does he have to close this door ? It makes no sense. The whole actions of Guede as lone wolf attacker that night are bizarre -he chooses the toughest entry point into the house in terms of its accessibility up an impossible wall and also least desirable as it could be viewed from the street; burglary did not seem to be his motive as hardly anything of value was stolen – Filomena’s laptop was ignored as were valuables from the other flatmates rooms, Meredith’s phones were taken and then dumped, Meredith’s cash and credit cards taken, but no usage of the credit cards was ever proven; sex did not seem to be his prime motive either, as he failed to have sex with Meredith – she was not raped; leaving the only thing Guede achieved that night to be a brutal murder. Finally, the icing on the cake for our lone wolf is that he had the time to take a dump and forget to flush.

    Guede seemed to have taken a huge risk that night (murder) and his benefits were almost nil it seems. He did not have sex with her – yet he was strong enough to brutally murder her, yet not strong enough to hold her down and rape her ? (apologies for this analogy – i am only trying to stress a point).

    He also is a completely inept burglar – choosing to pretty much take nothing of value – he even is so unimpressed with Meredith’s phones that he dumps them.

    It is difficult to buy into the Guede lone wolf theory. No part of it can be explained in a normal way – and there are paradoxes at every step.

    Guede’s involvement only starts to make sense if you accept the involvement of the Knox and Sollecito.

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