Rudy Hermann Guede
Early life Algouk is a small town near Abidjan, which is the largest city in the country. The Ivory Coast includes both Christian and Muslim communities, but the Guede family were Roman Catholic Christians.
Rudy Guede's father, (Pacome) Roger Guede, was training as a teacher in Abidjan, but, shortly after Rudy's birth, he relocated to Italy, hoping to better himself, and leaving the infant Rudy with his mother. In Italy, Guede senior could only find employment as a bricklayer. After five years working in Italy, in 1992, Roger Guede was granted a resident's permit and brought his five-year-old son, Rudy to Italy, again hoping that this would give the chance of a better life to the boy. They lived in a flat in Ponte San Giovanni, a working-class suburb of Perugia.
His father was often away, working on building projects, and local families stepped in to help look after Rudy. One of these carers was a Mrs Mancini, who had been Rudy's maths teacher at school and who continued to take an interest in him as he grew up. Rudy began a long-term friendship with her son Gabriele and another schoolmate, Giacomo Benedetti, who has remained loyal to Guede, even through his years in prison. Guede was described as a quiet child, well behaved and responsible, but with moments of daydreaming stupidity.
In 2004, Roger Guede returned to the Ivory Coast to renew his passport, but became caught up in the country's civil war and was away for six months. It was during this time that Rudy Guede was taken in and fostered by the Caporali family. Rudy had become very keen on basketball and, through his association with the local semi-pro team had become acquainted with one of the Caporali boys, who also played, and whose father's firm sponsored the team. The father, Paolo Caporali, headed the company, Liomatic, who manufactured coffee vending machines and are a household name in Italy.
Guede did not find this rags-to-riches change of lifestyle easy and he did not fit into the serious and studious role that Caporalis hoped he would adopt. Instead, he started skipping school and spending his time in front of the television or playing computer games. Paolo Caporali, speaking of these times, called Guede "an inveterate liar", though his wife said that Guede lied to protect himself, but not maliciously to hurt others or gain personal advantage. Nevertheless, he remained committed and reliable with regard to his basketball team.
At the age of 19, Guede left the Caporalis and moved to the Milan area to live with an aunt. At some point, he acquired Italian citizenship, giving him joint Ivorian/Italian nationality. His big break came when he secured a job as a waiter in Pavia. He had high hopes of learning the trade and becoming a restaurateur. However, in the early summer of 2007, the restaurant closed and its owner was arrested, leaving Guede jobless. He returned to Perugia, where the Caporalis found him a gardening job at a restaurant that they owned. However, he was an unreliable worker and was sacked.
He rented a student flat in via Canarino in Perugia and lived there from July 2007 until the time of the murder. How he lived for those three months is uncertain: some have suggested that he turned to petty crime; Russell, Johnson and Garofano, in their book, say he lived off his savings; it is likely also that he was entitled to state benefits: if he had worked and made Social Security contributions in the previous two years, he would have been entitled to unemployment benefits equal to 40% of his previous pay.
Events prior to the murder
There were several brushes with the law and crimes with which he may have been involved:
- Sometime between the evening of October 13 and October 14, someone had broken into the law offices of Paolo Brocchi and Matteo Palazzoli, in Perugia. A window was smashed with a large stone, and a computer, a cell phone, USB keys, and a printer were missing. On October 29, a colleague in his office called Brocchi to tell him that a man had come into their office to say that he had legitimately purchased some goods in Milan which Brocchi had reported as stolen in Perugia. Brocchi later identified Guede as that person.
- On the morning of October 27, 2007, the principal of a nursery school in Milan found a stranger coming out of her office. Police were called and the person was identified as Rudy Guede. There were no signs of a break-in; money was missing, but just small change. The police made him open his backpack. Inside the backpack was a computer, a 40 cm kitchen knife (which had come from the nursery school kitchen), a bunch of keys, a small gold woman’s watch, and a small hammer like those found in buses to be used to break windows. Police told the principal that the computer had been stolen from a law office in Perugia.
- Guede explained his presence by saying that he had asked someone at the central Milan train station where he could stay, and after paying 50 Euro, he was directed to the Milan nursery school. Guede had not forced an entry into the school; he did not threaten the Principal, but calmly waited with her for the police to arrive; he did not remove anything from the premises; and he had a reasonably plausible story to explained his acquisition of the stolen goods. He was questioned by police and released. A charge of possession of stolen goods was eventually brought in February 2008, by which time Guede was in custody for Meredith's murder.
- A householder, Tramontano, testified that someone attempted to rob his home, [Date unspecified] and upon being discovered tried to leave. Finding the door locked, the intruder pulled out a jackknife and threatened him. Tramontano saw Guede’s picture in the newspapers and said “I believe I recognize him.”
Numerous media reports describe Guede as a drug dealer, but there is little evidence for this assertion and he was never convicted of a drugs offence (or any other kind of offence), nor found in possession of drugs or drugs paraphernalia.
Events surrounding the murder
We don't know exactly what happened on the night of the murder. Guede was certainly present at the cottage (and admitted so) but, when and how he entered, what he did while he was there and when he left, remain controversial. Several items of physical evidence, attributable to him, were found at the crime scene:
- a palm print in blood found on the pillow case in Meredith's room;
- a genetic profile, from the Y haplotype on the vaginal swab, in which no traces of semen were found;
- Guede's DNA was found in four other places: on the toilet paper in the bathroom where unflushed feces were found; on the bag found on the bed; on the cuff of a blue sweatshirt found near the body; and on the right side of Meredith's bra;
- a shoeprint made by the same Nike brand as that worn by Guede;
- shoeprints in blood, consistent with his foot size left Meredith's bedroom, and went down the hall to the front door.
According to Guede's own account, he arranged with Meredith to meet her at her house and arrived about 8:30; he became intimate with her (consensually) but they did not have sex; Meredith discovered her rent money was missing and blamed Knox; Guede, having eaten a suspect kebab earlier, had to use the bathroom; while in there with his iPod headphones on, he heard the doorbell ring then heard Meredith scream; he rushed out of the bathroom without flushing the toilet; he confronted a knife-wielding Italian man who had stabbed Meredith in the neck; the man fled, saying "Black man found, black man guilty"; Guede had tried to staunch the blood from Meredith's neck with towels, but had given up, gone home visited a friend and then gone out to a disco.
At different times, Guede gave different versions of this story: for instance, the time and place where Guede supposedly made the arrangement with Meredith to meet her. In December 2007, Guede claimed that he met her at a Halloween party given by Spanish students. By March 2008, it was well known that Meredith had spent her entire Halloween in the company of friends, first in the Merlin pub before they later moved on to Domus disco. In March Rudy changed the location of his meeting with her from the Spanish party to Domus, which by chance Rudy had also attended following the party. However, neither Meredith’s friends who were continuously in her company nor those who accompanied Rudy to the Domus witnessed any meeting between the two.
By March 2008, Guede's account had also added the detail that Amanda Knox was the person who had rung the doorbell, and who Guede also saw leaving the house after the murder.
What is clear is that Guede was a participant in the murder; that, at some point afterwards he walked straight out of Meredith's room, down the passage and out of the front door (leaving a trail of shoe prints); and that he was later seen at one of the discos.
Two days after the murder, on November 3, Guede fled Perugia by train to Germany. From an Internet café, he had a Skype conversation with his friend Giacomo Benedetti who was co-operating with the Italian police. This gave his first version of his account of the evening of the murder. By this time, the Scientific Police had identified his presence at the murder scene by his bloody handprint which matched one they had on file from his application for citizenship. An International Arrest Warren was issued, and Guede was arrested in Germany on November 19.
Guede opted for a fast track trial (giudizio abbreviato). This is an option, available under Italian law, in which a defendant gives up some of his rights in exchange for a shorter sentence, if found guilty. Under normal (non-fast-track) proceedings, when a preliminary investigation has been completed by a prosecutor, a Preliminary Hearing, is convened by a judge, to decide whether a case should proceed to trial. Under the fast-track process, however, the Judge of the Preliminary Hearing immediately convicts or acquits the defendant, based solely on the evidence gathered during the preliminary investigation.
In Guede's case, the Preliminary Hearing was held on October 28, 2008, by Judge Paolo Micheli. The court sessions were held behind closed doors, with no reporters present. However, in accordance with Italian law, Judge Micheli made public the 106-page report that explains the thinking behind the court's decisions. His report is the only reliable source for events in court. Judge Micheli maintained that from the moment Meredith’s body was discovered until his arrest in Germany on November 19th, Rudy Guede was in a position to compile a version of his involvement in events at the cottage which would minimise his responsibilities and point the finger of guilt elsewhere. He was subsequently able to follow the course of the investigation in the media and continued to adapt details of his story to the evidence that emerged. Accordingly, Micheli gave little credence to Guede's accounts of events. Micheli considered character evidence on Rudy given by witnesses for both prosecution and defense. Although he had been seen with a knife on two occasions, and was considered a bit of a liar who sometimes got drunk, the judge didn’t consider that Rudy had previously shown a propensity for violence, nor behaviour towards girls which differed markedly from that displayed by many other young men of his age. However, because of the wealth of forensic evidence and his admitted presence in the cottage, combined with his total disbelief in Rudy’s statements, Micheli found Rudy guilty of participation in the murder of Meredith Kercher.
Under the fast-track system, a prison sentence is reduced by one third, except for a life sentence, which is reduced to 30 years. In this case, Micheli sentenced Guede to 30 years in prison: the fast-track equivalent of a life sentence, and the maximum sentence that can be handed down at a fast-track trial.
At the same hearing, Micheli committed Knox and Sollecito for trial. He considered that the evidence indicated that Rudy Guede was not a lone wolf killer and that there was evidence that implicated Knox and Sollecito as his possible accomplices in Meredith’s murder. Guede was not charged with breaking the window of Filomena's room or simulating a burglary in that room: Micheli concluded that this was done by others.
In 2009, in Viterbo prison, Guede was beaten up by two other inmates. The assault charge came to court but, at the last minute, Guede dropped the charges.
Guede appealed against the verdict of the Micheli court (as is his right under Italian law). By this stage, Knox and Sollecito's trial had finished, and they had been accorded some generic mitigation factors (eg their young age), giving them sentences, for the murder charge of 24 years. In Guede's case, the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction, but decided to accord him the same mitigating factors ― he was younger than Sollecito. So, his sentence was reduced to 24 years, due to the mitigating factors, and then by a further third, for the fast-track discount. Hence, his appeal resulted in a sentence of 16 years.
Guede's second appeal was to the Supreme Court ― the Court of Cassation ― on December 16, 2010. The presiding judge was Dr. Umberto Giordano. The Court rejected the appeal and ordered the petitioner to pay the legal costs. It also upheld the view of the lower court that several people were involved in the crime, including the staging of the crime scene after Meredith's death.
In June 2011, Guede appeared at Knox and Sollecito's appeal, called by the prosecution to refute allegations made by other prisoners that he had discussed the case with them and had said that Knox and Sollecito were not involved. He was unequivocal in his denial of discussing any details of the case with them. The prosecution also read out a letter that Guede had sent to his lawyers in 2010, which ends "...I hope that sooner or later the Judges become aware of my complete innocence in what was a horrible murder of a splendid beautiful girl that was Meredith by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox." He was pressed by Knox's defence to explain why he wrote this and firstly said, "I wrote it because it is a thought that has always been inside me." He went on to say that what he wrote was "very true".
Having exhausted all appeals, Rudy Guede is currently in prison serving his sentence.
- See Rudy Guede's Testimony to the Hellmann court
- CIA World Factbook.
- http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/cotediv.htm http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/cotediv.htm
- Russell, Paul; Johnson, Graham; Garofano, Luciano: Darkness Descending - the Murder of Meredith Kercher; Pocket Books; 7 Jan 2010; ISBN: 1847398626. This book was written early in the course of the murder case, so some of the details have become outdated. Nevertheless it provides considerable background information about Rudy Guede.
- http://www.welcomeoffice.fvg.it/media/118999/your%20social%20security%20rights%20in%20italy_en.pdf http://www.welcomeoffice.fvg.it/media/118999/your%20social%20security%20rights%20in%20italy_en.pdf
- Massei, p42
- Massei, p46
- Massei, p45
- Massei, p45
- Massei, p46
- Giordano Sentencing Report
- Micheli report
- Giordano Sentencing Report
- Rudy Guede's Skype Conversation
- Main source: Introduction to the Italian Criminal Trial process at Studio Legale Canestrini
- ABC News
- The Giordano Sentencing Report
- Rudy Guede's Testimony (English)