One of the enduring questions surrounding the tragic November 2007 murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy is whether Meredith might still be alive if Italian police had done their jobs properly. Rudy Guede is one of three people convicted of Meredith’s murder; he committed the crime alone. In the weeks leading up to the murder, Guede was in the midst of a one man crime spree that had been fully been brought to the attention of Italian authorities. These Italian police officials chose to do absolutely nothing in response to repeated citizen complaints concerning violent crimes that they had seen him commit.
If Italian police had simply done their jobs and taken Rudy Guede out of circulation, then Meredith would never have lost her life. In the years following the murder, Italian authorities have done everything in their power to stonewall any investigation of their failures in the case. This selfish and illegal obstruction of justice has helped to keep two innocent young people, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, behind bars for a murder they did not commit. In the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, defense attorneys were forced to rely on the testimony of people who had themselves been robbed and threatened by Rudy Guede because the police officials who had investigated the crimes refused to come to court and testify. With the recent publication of Nina Burleigh’s new book, The Fatal Gift of Beauty, new details are emerging about the actions of the police in Milan.
In the United States and other Western democracies, law enforcement officers are bound by oath. They are trained observers. If a policeman or policewoman says they saw something, their description of what they saw must be truthful and accurate to the best of their abilities. In addition a law enforcement officer cannot have definitive information about illegal activity and not act. Prosecutors are further bound by the Brady doctrine whereby any exculpatory evidence in their possession must be fully disclosed to the defense. Italian law enforcement does not play by these rules.
Failure of the Italian Police to Investigate Rudy Guede after the murder
Italian police failed utterly and absolutely to investigate Rudy Guede following the murder of Meredith Kercher. As part of any responsible post-murder investigation, police should have carefully investigated his illegal acts prior to the murder, particularly ones that bore an apparent similarity to what was observed at the crime scene. Within two weeks of the crime, police had identified Guede’s palm prints in the victim’s blood at the crime scene. His DNA indicated sexual penetration of the victim and he fled to Germany a few days after the murder. At this point, Police should have been on a mission to learn anything and everything they could about Rudy Guede. If they had tried they might noted his propensity to lie; his tendency to act without accomplices; that he often ransacked the crime scene over an extended period of time; that he entered though elevated windows broken with rocks; that he ate from the refrigerator; that he stole cell phones. Most important of all was his use of knives as weapons and his aggressive pursuit on the local student bar scene of young women who by all accounts showed little interest in him.
One of the most important of these criminal acts by Rudy Guede occurred in Milan on the morning of October 27, 2007, only six days prior to the murder. Rudy Guede was caught red-handed having broken into a nursery school as the owner, Maria Del Prato, arrived in the morning with two repairmen. There were thus three eye witnesses to this intrusion. The importance of these incidents cannot be emphasized enough. When questioned by police, Guede refused to answer questions about why he was there and told police that he was South American which was a lie. When police examined his backpack they found a laptop and cell phone that they quickly determined had been stolen from a Perugian law office a few days earlier. The similarities between Guede’s modus operandi in the law office break-in and what was found at the Meredith Kercher crime scene was stunning. In both incidents he had entered through an elevated window broken with a rock, he had no accomplices, he stole a cell phone, and he extensively ransacked the scene for no apparent reason. In the nursery school break-in he was also found to have stolen a large knife from the school’s kitchen and to have been in possession of a woman’s gold watch. Why would Rudy Guede need a woman’s gold watch? Despite having definitive knowledge of his participation in two burglaries, Milanese police never charged Rudy Guede with anything. They simply put him back on a train to Perugia where he could be somebody else’s problem.
Guede is also suspected in the October 8, 2007 burglary of the same nursery school in which 2,000 Euros were stolen. Once again Guede’s distinctive M.O. of ransacking the property and preparing food was observed.
As pointed out by author Nina Burleigh, Guede was also a habitual liar. He had told friends that his father was a computer programmer who provided regular support for him. In fact his father was a laborer who had largely cut off contact with him. In other incidents Guede had described himself as either American or South African. He was neither.
The gold watch is particularly significant because of a possible link to an arson/burglary incident at the residence of one Madu Diaz four days earlier on October 23, 2007 in Perugia. In this incident the residence was extensively damaged by a fire that also killed Ms. Diaz’s cat. Rudy Guede lived next door to Ms. Diaz and was known to her. Although they had greeted each other on an almost daily basis prior to the fire, Guede was conspicuously absent following the fire. Ms. Diaz had had her suspicions about him and when, following the murder, his image was broadcast throughout Europe, she contacted police. Milanese police have never made any effort to determine if the gold watch they found in Guede’s backpack was the same one reported stolen by Madu Diaz. Once again his distinctive M.O. was very much observed at the crime scene: The entry there was through a window, the house was ransacked and he consumed food during the intrusion.
Failure to Arrest Rudy Guede prior to the Murder
Perhaps the most important incident involving Guede prior to the murder occurred in the early hours of September 27, 2007 at the residence of Perugian bartender Christian Tramontano. Tramontano had been asleep upstairs at his home with his girlfriend when he was awoken by the sounds of someone rummaging through his belongings downstairs. Tramontano confronted the intruder, who he later identified as Guede, and a struggle ensued. Guede was able to escape when he threatened Tramontano with a pocket knife. Tramontano did call the police emergency number but police did not dispatch a patrol car to the residence. They simply told him to come to the police station the next day and fill out a form, advice he apparently did not follow up on because of long lines at the station.
That incident took on added significance because of its relation to the credibility of statements made to police by Guede about the murder. There is no evidence of any relationship between Guede and the victim; Meredith Kercher had in fact just begun an intimate relationship with an Italian young man. Guede’s DNA was all over the crime scene including inside the victim’s vagina. He claimed the sexual contact was consensual. As part of this claim, he made statements to police that he had met Meredith Kercher on the night before the murder, Halloween. He claimed to have stolen a kiss from her and to have arranged a date at Meredith’s residence the following night. None of the young women who were with Meredith that night say they saw anything of the sort. It turns out that Christian Tramontano was a bouncer/bartender at the Merlin’s Pub where Meredith had been during much of the time Guede was talking about. Tramontano had made a special point of banning Rudy from the club because of the altercation in his house. Rudy Guede didn’t make a date with Meredith Kercher at Merlin’s because Christian Tramontano had identified him as the burglar in his house and would not have permitted him to enter the nightclub that night.
The important point is that Italian police felt no obligation to provide any information to the Amanda Knox Tribunal. Information about these incidents was presented in court by the victim’s themselves, Maria Del Prato, Christian Tramontano, and Paolo Brocchi, the lawyer whose laptop had been stolen. In fact defense attorneys might not even have known about the law office break-in but for a bizarre incident whereby Guede appeared at the law office a few days before the murder to tell the lawyer that he had actually bought the stolen laptop at a railway station. Right.
In summary, Italian police had definitive knowledge of three criminal acts (at least) by Rudy Guede in the 33 days prior to the murder of Meredith Kercher yet they took no action against him. In one of these incidents he threatened someone with a knife inside their own home. Defense attorneys for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have never been able to get the police officials who “investigated” these crimes to come into court and describe what they knew. The reluctance of police officials to investigate Rudy Guede and to provide the results of their work to the Amanda Knox trial is an enduring mystery of the case. If Italian police had simply done their jobs properly then two innocent young people, Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox, would never have been unjustly imprisoned and Meredith Kercher would still be alive.