Even as one person is convicted and two others are ordered to stand trial over the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, the Italian town where she was killed observed her first death anniversary Saturday.
Fresh flowers, along with two candles and a teddy bear key ring, were placed at the gate leading to the whitewashed cottage Kercher shared with American student Amanda Knox, one of three people accused of killing her in a sex game turned violent.
AdvertisementWhile Kercher's family commemorated the anniversary quietly at home in Coulsdon, Surrey, a special church service was held in Perugia.
"We pray for Meredith and for other women victims of crime," said Monsignor Elio Bromuri, the rector of Perugia University's church.
He expressed "great pity" for Meredith but also for those accused of killing her - Miss Knox, 21, her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 24, and Rudy Guede, 21, a drifter and immigrant from the Ivory Coast who was last week found guilty of murder and sentenced to 30 years in jail. "Even they, exposed by the media, have become victims," said Msgr Bromuri.
Kercher, who was studying at Leeds University, came to Perugia to learn Italian and to pursue her European Studies degree.
She had only been in the medieval city for two months when police found her semi-naked body in the house she shared with Knox, of Seattle, and two other students.
Her throat had been slit and she had sustained more than 40 other injuries. In the days following the murder prosecutors arrested Miss Knox and her IT graduate boyfriend Mr Sollecito. They also arrested Guede after he fled to Germany.
Miss Knox initially blamed the killing on Patrick Lumumba, a Congolese bar owner, who was held in prison for two weeks.
He was released and cleared of any link to the crime by a witness and is now seeking compensation from Miss Knox, who has said she deeply regrets making the false accusation.
The prosecution maintains that Kercher died during what began as a sex game, with Sollecito pinning her down while Miss Knox touched her with the point of a knife and Guede sexually assaulted her. Knox then allegedly stabbed the young British woman in the throat.
"When I closed my eyes, I could only see red," Guede wrote in an account for the police after his arrest. "I have never seen so much blood. All of that blood on her beautiful face."
Yet in court he claimed he did her no harm, saying he was in the lavatory the whole time. Few believed this story, however, and at the end of his fast-track trial on Tuesday, Judge Paolo Micheli sentenced him to 30 years - less than the life sentence prosecutors demanded, but a heavy penalty nonetheless. His lawyers have announced that he will appeal.
Guede was five when he left Ivory Coast with his father, Pacome Roger Guede, bound for Europe. They settled in Perugia, where Pacome worked on building sites, but after a decade he went home, leaving behind his son, now a teenager.
Guede, tall, thin and athletic, was a gifted basketball player, and Paolo Caporali, a wealthy local man who sponsored the town's youth team, informally adopted him. But Guede was already on the slide. He dropped out of school, dabbled in drugs and showed little ambition. "He preferred to spend the day in front of the television or with video games," said Caporali. "He had little wish to study, and even less to work." Rumour had it that he dealt in drugs, molested girls and dipped into their handbags.
Judge Paolo Micheli also ruled that there was enough evidence to send Knox and Sollecito to trial on charges of murder and aggravated sexual assault.
The trial is scheduled to start on December 4.
After Meredith died many students, including foreigners, put in requests to move from their rented apartments into halls of residence," said Prof Maurizio Olivieri, who organises student welfare programmes. "I don't know if it is connected to the murder, but our team of psychologists has also had thousands more requests for appointments this year from students."
Nevertheless new students are flocking to the Merlin pub, which 12 months ago hosted the Halloween party where Kercher was famously photographed in a vampire outfit, her last night on the town before she was brutally stabbed the following evening.
"The foreign student numbers this autumn have boomed," said co-owner Pasquale Alessi, after politely telling two plastered American students to head home. "We keep an eye on drunks but many bars are again battling for business, charging €10 (£7) for all you can drink."
Student spending power is also appreciated by Perugia's army of drug dealers, who have turned the town into central Italy's biggest cocaine, heroin and marijiuana outlet, even recruiting well-to-do students as pushers.
Sollecito and Knox claimed their memories of the night of the murder were blurred by the large quantity of marijuana they had smoked, while Guede is depicted by witnesses as a cocaine user, although that is denied by his lawyer.
Giacomo Silenzi, the downstairs neighbour Kercher was dating, had a collection of marijuana plants, while the car park across the street from the house Kercher and Knox shared was a favourite hang-out for dealers.
The murder also formed part of a string of crimes against women in the area. Three women have been murdered in the province of Perugia this year, said Monica Napoleoni, head of the city's murder squad, while in a national survey last year, 6.4% of women in the region of Umbria reported being attacked or sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months, higher than the 5.4% national average.
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