What the Rapist Had to Say

Barbie Nadeau returns to the study-abroad murder scandal that rocked three nations. The victim’s convicted rapist takes the stand against the American girl accused of orchestrating the crime.

Rudy Guede is not a particularly big man. In fact, when he walked into the Perugian courtroom Saturday morning flanked by armed guards, he looked shrunken and tense. Last October, he was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering 21-year-old Briton Meredith Kercher.

Kercher's bruised and bloody body was found on her bedroom floor in the villa she shared with 21-year-old Seattle native Amanda Knox, who was studying in Italy. Knox, who at one time confessed to being in the house, originally blamed Congolese pub owner Diya Patrick Lumumba for Kercher's murder. Lumumba was arrested but later released due to lack of evidence. He is suing Knox for an undisclosed sum for slander.

His fingerprints were found on the pillow below her head and his DNA was found on and in her body.

Guede was called as a witness by the prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, who had hoped his testimony would help them convict Knox and 25-year-old Rafaelle Sollecito of playing a role in Kercher’s murder. “I would like to exercise my right not to respond,” he told the judge. And then he was taken back to prison. Later, in a letter he wrote to his attorney Walter Biscotti, he said that because the prosecutor frequently called him a liar, he didn’t feel like cooperating.

No one really expected Guede to offer an earth-shattering confession, but still everyone was hoping. Guede is a central figure in this crime because he is the only person who admits to being in the house the night Kercher was killed. He didn’t testify, but during the murder investigation, he told detectives that Meredith had invited him over November 1, and that shortly after he arrived, they had started making out. Back then, he told detectives that a stomach cramp from a bad kebab sent him to the toilet where he listened to three songs on his iPod. He said he heard a scream and came out of the bathroom and struggled with an Italian-looking man. He told investigators he also heard the voice of Amanda Knox. Guede said he went to Meredith’s room and that she was on the floor with a knife wound to her neck. His fingerprints were found on the pillow below her head and his DNA was found on and in her body. He told the investigators back in March 2008 that he was scared that he would be blamed for her murder so he ran. He also told them he regretted not staying to help her.

Police arrested Guede in Germany in November 2007. He agreed to a fast-track trial last October. The judge in that trial dismissed his story as farcical and convicted him of sexual assault and murder. The only aspect that rang true was the bad kebab story, because he had left his feces in the toilet that, along with his DNA on Kercher's body, tied him to the crime. Other testimony this weekend focused on Guede’s biological evidence and the violence inflicted on Kercher’s body. The courtroom was closed to journalists, but lawyers and the prosecutors were quick to spin their versions of the testimony outside the courthouse. Mignini described how Amanda kept her head down when graphic autopsy photos were shown. It also emerged that trial pathologist Dr. Luca Lalli testified that in his opinion, Kercher’s murder was most likely committed by more than one person, given the sheer number and style of bruises and abrasions on her body. Under cross-examination, he also testified that it could have been just one.

The number of people involved in Kercher’s murder is crucial for the prosecution’s case. If experts can prove that only one person was involved, it will be difficult to convict Knox and Sollecito, because Guede is already serving time for this murder. So far that hasn’t been a problem. On Saturday, lawyers said that medical examiner Vincenza Liviero testified she found that “there were more than two hands” involved in sexual violence against Kercher. Francesco Maresca, attorney for the Kercher family, said that Kercher’s body was so badly violated that he had no doubt that there were at least two people involved. “There were so many wounds caused by a knife and caused by hands," he said. "The only way they could have been from one person is if that person had three or four hands.”

Barbie Nadeau has reported from Italy for Newsweek magazine since 1997. She also writes for CNN Traveller, Budget Travel Magazine and Frommer's.