March 13, 2009 in Nation/World, Region

Trial: Italian suspect had knife at police station

Associated Press
 

PERUGIA, Italy — Police officers testifying at the trial of two suspects in the slaying of a British student in Italy said Friday that the Italian suspect carried a knife to the police station and that his American co-defendant looked nervous and repeatedly hit her head with her hands.

Police officer Daniele Moscatelli told a court in Perugia, central Italy, that Raffaele Sollecito looked “quite confused and nervous” during the questioning in the hours that followed the murder and was carrying a “long” knife in his pocket.

“He said he was a fan of arms and knives,” Moscatelli said. The knife is not believed to be the weapon with which 21-year-old Meredith Kercher was stabbed to death in 2007.

Another police officer, Fabio D’Astolto, said during his testimony that, at the police station, American suspect Amanda Knox “was nervously walking up and down the hallway bringing both hands to her head and hitting it,” he said, mimicking the gesture.

Knox and Sollecito are on trial on charges of murder and sexual violence for the slaying of Kercher, who was found dead on Nov. 2, 2007, in the apartment she shared with Knox.

They have denied wrongdoing.

Prosecutors allege that Kercher was killed during what began as a sex game, with Sollecito holding her by the shoulders from behind while Knox touched her with the point of a knife. They say a third man, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, tried to sexually assault Kercher and then Knox fatally stabbed her in the throat.

Guede was convicted of murder in a separate trial last year and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Knox’s DNA was on the handle of a knife found at Sollecito’s house that might have been used in the slaying, and the victim’s DNA was found on the blade.

Both defendants attended the hearing Friday, walking into the courtroom escorted by police. They exchanged smiles at the end of the hearing.

Knox declined to answer questions called out to her by reporters during a break in the hearing, but her stepfather, Chris Mellas, said she is “doing OK.”

Interpreter Anna Donnino, who translated for Knox as she was being questioned by police, recalled that the American had told investigators she was in the apartment the night of the slaying and heard Kercher’s screams and that Knox accused Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, a Congolese man who has a pub in Perugia, of being the murderer.

“She covered her ears with her hands and said ’It’s him, it’s him, he’s bad,”’ Donnino said. “It was as if a weight had been lifted from her.”

Knox now maintains she was not at home during the slaying. Lumumba has been briefly jailed in the case, but he is no longer a suspect and is seeking defamation damages from Knox.

Later Friday, Sollecito stood up in court to reiterate claims that police denied his requests to call his father and a lawyer the night he was questioned.

Knox also stood up to insist again that she had been treated badly, saying she was called “a stupid liar” and that she was slapped on her head during police questioning.

Police have denied mistreating or otherwise abusing the suspects.

The next hearing was scheduled for Saturday.

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