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KERCHER MURDER RETRIAL

CRIME

Knox’s initial claims will be re-examined at retrial

The retrial of Amanda Knox and her former lover Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher begins in Florence on Monday. While Knox has decided not to attend, Sollecito has said he will attend court later on in the trial.

Knox's initial claims will be re-examined at retrial
Raffaele Sollecito (L) and Amanda Knox (centre) face a retrial for the murder of Meredith Kercher (R). Photos: Mario Laporta/AFP, Tiziana Fabi/AFP, TJMK.

US student Knox and her former lover Italian Raffaele Sollecito spent four years behind bars for the murder of Meredith Kercher, who was found half-naked in a pool of blood in the house she shared with Knox in 2007, her body riddled with stab wounds.

Kercher's throat had been slit and she suffered a "slow, agonizing" death, according to the coroner's report.

An appeals court overturned their convictions in 2011 and Knox returned to Seattle, but Italy's Supreme Court in March ordered a retrial for them both following an appeal by prosecutors against what they slammed a "superficial ruling."

Knox, 26, has decided not to return for the retrial, saying her stint in prison aged her by 40 years and she suffers from panic attacks and depression. 

"I was depicted as a young, unscrupulous liar. A sex fiend, a murderess. I'm not coming back," she told Florence's local Corriere Fiorentino daily on the eve of the hearing.

If Knox is convicted again and loses another Supreme Court appeal, experts say there is a remote chance that she could be extradited and imprisoned.

On Sunday Knox's desire to visit Kercher's grave was rejected by the Kercher family in a statement through their lawyer.

"It took us as a family nearly five years to even begin to feel ready to lay Mez to rest and it is still extremely painful now, however she now has a place near to us that we and her friends can visit to take flowers and spend time," Meredith's elder sister, Stephanie, said in the statement seen by The Local.

See also an interview with Perugia's mayor about the case

Meanwhile, 29-year-old Sollecito has been living in the Dominican Republic but his family has said he will attend court later on in the trial, which could last months.

Retrial judge Alessandro Nencini will have to decide whether to order DNA evidence to be examined again from scratch and re-hear witness testimony.

"We are ready to fight, to answer every challenge point by point," Knox's lawyer Luciano Ghirga said following the Supreme Court's decision.

Italy's highest court said a retrial was necessary because of "numerous examples of shortcomings, contradictions and incoherencies" in the appeal ruling.

It accused the judges of glazing over clues and insisted the prosecution's claim from the original trial — that the grizzly murder was the result of "an erotic game that spun out of control" — was a valid hypothesis.

It strongly questioned the decision not to test a third trace of DNA found on the alleged murder weapon — a kitchen knife found in Sollecito's house — despite experts saying the trace was too low to produce conclusive results.

See also: Kerchers seek clarity six years on

It accused the judges of not considering the prosecution's claim that Sollecito's involvement was proved by the fact that only one in three billion people were compatible with the DNA traces found on Kercher's bra strap.

The defence insists the DNA samples were not admissible because the original probe into the murder was flawed — with police caught using dirty gloves to bag evidence and failing to store it properly, opening the way to possible DNA contamination.

The Supreme Court said Knox's original confession to police which she later retracted — in which she said she heard Meredith's screams from another room in the house and covered her ears — was undervalued.

The US student insists the claim was made under duress.

The report also wondered why her initial bid to finger an innocent Congolese barman for the crime held little weight in the appeal verdict.

Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede, who like the other two has always denied the murder, is the only person still in prison for the crime.

The original case shone an unflattering light shone on Italy's criminal justice system.

Key questions dismissed on appeal are now back on the table — with the Supreme Court stressing that Guede could not have acted alone because of the apparent use of two different knives in the attack.

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MAFIA

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

In its latest mafia sting, Italian police took down a large 'Ndrangheta ring in southern Calabria, placing 56 people under investigation including a regional councillor and a former head of the regional tourism board.

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

The early-morning blitz by over 300 police focused on areas of Calabria – Italy’s poorest region – under the control of the Mancuso clan, a powerful branch of the infamous ‘Ndrangheta, many of whose top operatives are among hundreds of defendants in an ongoing ‘maxi-trial’.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: It’s time to bust some myths about the Calabrian mafia

Besides alleged mafia members, the operation also snared businessmen, a regional councillor released from prison days earlier, a former head of the regional tourism board and two civil servants, police said.

The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso, also known as “The Supreme”, is the biggest mafioso in the massive mafia trial that started in January 2021.

Still, police said, his clan and affiliates, including the La Rosa and Accortini families, have continued to dominate illegal activities in the Vibo Valentia province, which is located right on the toe of Italy’s boot and is widely known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ due to its stunning coastal views.

One mafia scheme involved the infiltration of a foreign tour operator in Pizzo Calabro, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

No one talks

In Calabria, the extent of the ‘Ndrangheta’s reach in the local economy has made it near impossible to eradicate it.

By controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in power and wealth. It has extended far beyond its rural roots and now operates internationally, with illegal gains reinvested in the legitimate economy.

In the area around Vibo Valentia, extortion of local businesses and the fixing of public tenders is also common.

The allegations against those arrested Thursday include the transport and sale of stolen farm machinery to Malta and Romania, police said.

The sting carried out on Thursday extended to other parts of Calabria, Palermo in Sicily and as far as Rome and Milan, police said.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

In a press conference, anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, whose efforts to defeat the ‘Ndrangheta have forced him to live under police escort for over 30 years, called the group a “fierce mafia syndicate” controlling areas around the tourist resort of Tropea.

Francesco Messina, who leads Italy’s organised crime investigative unit (DAC), cited the economic power of the clan, which relies locally on “substantial” extortion activity.

The “total absence” of complaints to authorities was striking, Messina said, underscoring the ‘Ndrangheta’s power to intimidate.

By Alexandria Sage

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