Raffaele Sollecito creates a social network for the dead
Patrick Browne · 8 Feb 2016, 13:29
Published: 08 Feb 2016 13:29 GMT+01:00
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“It's called 'Memories' and functions like a social network for graves,” Sollecito, from Puglia, told The Local.
“People can create a profile page for their deceased loved ones, where they can post photos, videos and share their memories. Each profile is also hooked up to an e-commerce portal where friends and family can order graveside services.”
In a business that benefitted from a €66,000 grant from Puglia's regional government, Sollecito is planning to provide a range of graveside services, such as replenishing flowers or placing candles and wreaths by them, all of which can be purchased online.
Customers can even ask for tombstones and mausoleums to be cleaned, with prices starting from €45 for basic services.
Once a service has been performed a high-resolution photograph of the work is uploaded to the deceased's profile page so that the spruced-up grave can be freshly admired by the deceased's distant nearest and dearest.
The site is due to launch in the Spring. Photo: Memories SRLS
Sollecito, who spent four years in jail for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher, said the idea for the business came about after his mother died in 2005.
“I wanted a way to make remembering her easier,” he added.
But any plans he had of developing the business were put on hold when just two years after losing his mother, he found himself at the centre of a high-profile murder investigation.
Sollecito and ex-girlfriend, Amanda Knox, were convicted to 26 years in jail in 2009 for Kercher's murder – a case which captured global attention.
The pair repeatedly claimed their innocence, but each spent four years in prison before being acquitted in 2011. But in 2013, that acquittal was deemed flawed and they were retried before both being finally cleared by Italy's top court last March.
Since then, Sollecito - who completed a degree in Computer Science at the University of Perugia while in prison in 2008 - hasn't wasted any time in realizing the idea he first had more than a decade ago.
“I began working on the database in October and it will be online by Spring,” he said.
“We hope we will also be able to offer a personalized urn service too, which will let people order special urns made by local artists.”
For now, the database only covers graves in Italy but the business has global ambitions.
“It's already international, in the way that, for example, someone living in Canada or Tokyo can use the service to commemorate someone buried in Italy. We hope to keep growing and one day offer the service on graves outside Italy too.”
Alongside the government cash-injection, Sollecito said that some of the funding had come from his family, but "only to cover small expenses".
Headquartered in Sollecito's home town of Giovinazzo, the business will employ three people, including a secretary, an intern and a part-time employee.
The acquittal has given Sollecito back his freedom and silenced many of the doubters who had said he was guilty.
But given that his name will probably be forever connected to a murder case, does he not think people will view his latest enterprise as a little morbid?
“It's not morbid, no. It's innovative: there's no other service like this at the moment. I think it's a really sweet idea and a good way to remember the dead.”