Rudy Guede’s jail sentence cut to half Amanda Knox’s

Rudy Guede Knox Kercher

Legal experts puzzled as ‘third man’ in Meredith Kercher’s killing is shown leniency

BY Jack Bremer LAST UPDATED AT 07:35 ON Wed 23 Dec 2009

The Meredith Kercher murder case took a bizarre turn yesterday when 'the third man' in the case, Ivorian immigrant Rudy Guede, had his jail term slashed from 30 to 16 years by an appeal court in Perugia. It means he faces about half the prison term dished out to the Seattle girl Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito on December 5 when they were found guilty of the British exchange student's murder.

According to Italian prosecutors, Guede, Knox and Sollecito were all involved in killing Meredith Kercher in her cottage in Perugia on the night of November 1, 2007.

The prosecutors claims that Kercher died when a drug-fuelled group sex game got out of hand. They believe Sollecito held Meredith down while his girlfriend Amanda Knox threatened her with a knife and Guede sexually assaulted her. Knox then stabbed Kercher in the throat.

Guede became a suspect after his fingerprints were found in bloodstains on Kercher's pillow, and other DNA traces were recovered on her body and in the lavatory bowl. The fact that he then left the country - he was picked up in Germany - seemed to confirm his guilt and he opted for a fast-track trial last year, pleading guilty to Meredith's murder.

But ever since his conviction, Guede has protested his innocence. On learning yesterday that his sentence had been virtually halved, his response was: "I'm not happy because I am innocent."

Guede's version of events is that he was at the cottage Kercher and Knox shared in the Umbrian city of Pereugia when he began to feel unwell and went to the bathroom. While he was sitting on the lavatory, listening to his iPod, he heard over the sound of the music an argument break out between Kercher and Knox.

"I heard Meredith's and Amanda's voices, arguing about some money missing," he told the appeal court. "I was listening to music but halfway through the third track I heard a piercing scream."

He said he ran into Kercher's bedroom where he saw a man, who he later said could have been Sollecito. The man tried to stab him with a knife and then said: "Let's go, there's a black guy in the house." Looking out of the window, Guede saw a woman leaving the house whom he identified as Amanda Knox.

Guede told the court he then saw that Meredith Kercher had had her throat cut. He tried to stem the flow of blood with towels, but when she appeared to be dying he panicked and left the house.

"Seeing Meredith in these terms was agonising," he said. "She tried to tell me something, but I couldn't understand her. I held her hand, I asked her what had happened ... In that moment, I entered into a state of shock."

He then ran out of the house and after a few days decided to leave the country. He was arrested in Germany and extradited back to Italy. "I want to let the Kercher family know that I did not kill or rape their daughter," he said. "I was not the one who took her life."

Yesterday's decision to uphold his conviction but cut his sentence so drastically has left some legal observers bewildered. "Either he was party to the murder, along with Knox and Sollecito, or he wasn't," a lawyer told The First Post last night. "The reduced sentence seems to suggest that the court believes Guede might have been an accessory to the murder, but not a prime instigator of Meredith's killing."

Meanwhile 22-year-old Amanda Knox faces Christmas in jail and a long wait for her appeal to begin, some time next year. According to her mother, Edda Mellas, shopkeepers in the Umbrian town of Assisi have collected gifts for the American girl, including books, chocolates and a potted Christmas tree.

"She's not allowed candy in jail so I can't take the chocolates in and they won't allow the tree either," Mellas said. "I can take the books in though." · 

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