Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

5 Years Later: Perugia Prays for Meredith

Candles on the Perugia cathedral steps after Meredith Kercher's murder. Photo: A.Vogt 2007

Five years ago today British student Meredith Kercher was brutally murdered in Perugia, Italy, her lifeless body discovered under a duvet in her room the following day, November 2, by police in the small Umbrian hilltop town where she had just arrived to study Italian.

As the sensational case gripped the world’s spotlight, Kercher’s murder would eventually become known more commonly as the Amanda Knox case, after American  woman arrested, convicted and then eventually acquitted on appeal for Kercher’s murder. Knox, along with Italian Raffaele Sollecito (whose original conviction was also overturned) face their final court decision in March when Italy’s high court reviews the appeal acquittal. The murder conviction of African immigrant Rudy Guede, the third protagonist in the case, was heard separately and upheld both on appeal as well as at the high court level.

The day after her acquittal, Knox flew back to her native Seattle and has notably stayed out of the limelight that shined so brightly, too brightly, on her for four years. Like Sollecito, she signed a lucrative book deal, and just as he made the rounds on the American media circuit, she is also is expected to re-emerge into the spotlight when her book is complete and media strategists determine it is time to begin telling her side of the story.

For many, Meredith Kercher’s murder still remains a painful, open case. Contradictory court opinions in Italy’s complex judicial system about the dynamic of the crime have prevented a cohesive, consistent truth from emerging that might put divisions and questions to rest. In March, the high court  revisits the case again.  And while the Kercher family themselves are hesitant to say how they hope that ruling will go, their lawyers in Florence have said they believe the judges have “all the elements to annul the acquittal.” If it is annuled, a retrial would likely be ordered. If the acquittal is upheld, the case is closed once and for all, which is surely the outcome Knox, Sollecito and their families are hoping for.

As case observers await the Court of Cassation’s decision next spring, efforts  continue  in the UK, Italy and the U.S.  to keep Kercher’s memory alive, especially on the sad anniversary of her death, which is also, coincidentally, a national day of mourning for the dead in Italy. Her father, John Kercher, released his poignant memoir “Meredith,” last April. Her sister, Stephanie,  has bravely set aside polemics and her own grief to take on a more prominent public role speaking about her sister, to preserve her memory in a positive way. Earlier this week she appeared on ITV1 before being awarded editor’s choice prize Tuesday at the  Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women of the Year Awards in London, which she dedicated to her sister.  Cosmopolitan editor Louise Court called her  “an inspiring figure of strength and support,” and praised her  “single-minded desire to ensure her sister isn’t forgotten and to make sure her personality shines through any projects she undertakes.”

Dozens of books have been published on the case, which is still  observed closely by an online community of case followers. A New York-based website, True Justice for Meredith Kercher, still regularly posts updates.  The contentious debate over the forensics, trial evidence, and how the case was handled in the courts, continues today on a variety of online forums.  The city of Perugia and the University for Foreigners have established scholarships and other local commemorations in her honor.

Meredith Kercher’s murder has left  “deep mark on the collective memory of the town,” Perugia’s mayor Wladimiro Boccali told ANSA earlier this week.

The archbishop of Perugia Gualtiero Bassetti said Kercher will never be forgotten in the small hilltop city of Umbria calling her  murder “a wound in the conscience of the religious and civic community  which has not yet healed.” Bassetti said  Kercher will “be in my prayers” for the Nov. 1 ” Day of the Dead,” which is marked in connection with Italy’s Nov. 2 “All Saints Day” honoring the deceased. He urged Perugians to pray for her as well.

Perugia’s prayers for Meredith are a reminder for all those who followed the divisive case – no matter who they thought was guilty or innocent –  to pause for a moment to reflect on  the promising, well-liked young woman who died so tragically and prematurely five years ago today, in a city still haunted by her memory.

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