Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were arrested on November 6th 2007. After a year in prison they were indicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher.
On November 7th 2007, the day after the arrest, the Italian Minister of the Interior, Giulia Amati, declared that they were guilty. Their photographs were then placed on a ‘wall of shame’ at Rome Police Station, alongside pictures of convicted Mafia gangsters. This top level condemnation from the government emboldened the media. News coverage continued on the basis that they had already been convicted.
Keep taking the tabloids
Within hours of Meredith’s murder, journalists flocked to Perugia. As soon as Knox and Sollecito were arrested, coverage went into overdrive. In the early weeks of the investigation, The Times of London was posting as many as three stories a day on its website. Everything that the police told reporters was published as truth. Many ‘facts’ turned out to be lies. None of this mattered. A good story doesn’t have to be true.
Knox in particular was the focus of sustained character assassination by the media, particularly in Italy and the UK. Her MySpace website was harvested and everything that could be misinterpreted was used against her.
The prosecution appeared certain of its case, although it was based on a signed statement extracted during an illegal, abusive, interrogation without the presence of a lawyer or an independent interpreter. Alarm bells should have been ringing. Nobody was suspicious. The story was too good. Where was the recording? It has never surfaced.
Everything that Knox said was called a lie, apart from the single coerced statement that the police had forced out of her. The presumption of innocence never existed – it had evaporated on the morning Meredith’s body was discovered. That was the time when investigators decided that Knox and Sollecito were guilty. From then on, they were harassed and worn down until they could be tricked into saying what the police wanted to hear.
Conviction was a formality. Their trial took up most of 2009. In December, the guilty verdict was handed down. For most observers, this was a satisfactory conclusion to a very unpleasant crime. Meredith’s family and friends were quietly satisfied. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, two innocent people trapped in a nightmare, were plunged into despair. Justice would eventually prevail, but it would be an awfully long time coming.
At a very early stage in the saga, on January 20th 2008, less than three months after Meredith’s death, nine months before the suspects were charged and a year before their trial started, the first online forum attacking Amanda Knox was launched. At first it was a thread on the ‘Truecrimeweblog’ site. This became ‘Perugia Murder File’ later in the year. The man behind the site, ‘Harry Rag’ has been trolling against Amanda Knox ever since.
Under the guise, ‘The Machine’ he was also the driving force behind another larger hate site, ‘True Justice for Meredith Kercher’ (TJMK). This was destined to become the primary focus for an online war against Knox and Sollecito.
It was launched on August 25th 2008 by eccentric New York pensioner Peter Quennell. The groundwork for TJMK was laid down as early as January 2008 when Quennell visited Italy. He later wrote a series of irrelevant essays about the country and published them on the site. Quennell was also an online sex predator who attempted to trick a young ballerina into having a relationship with him. Fortunately she was able to extract herself from his clutches. Despite his questionable hobby, Quennell has continued to edit TJMK.
Harry Rag (The Machine) joined TJMK on September 2nd and was soon writing for the site. He kicked off on the 7th October with an article about the knife that was alleged to have been the murder weapon. For the next seven years, as well as writing for TJMK, Rag carpet-bombed news comment sites and blogs. His usual post was a list of myths that he argued proved that Knox was guilty. This was modified over time, but its thrust never changed. It appeared so many times that it is possible that there was a team of ‘Harry Ragettes’ assisting him.
TJMK and Harry Rag have persecuted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito from the start. True Justice was never part of the plan. Character assassination, misrepresenting and lying about evidence, deliberately misunderstanding forensic science and constant repetition of disproved myths were the name of the game. As the enterprise built up momentum it attracted followers like flies around a garbage truck.
High profile crimes and trials attract attention and the murder of Meredith Kercher has done so like no other case in the internet age. By the end of 2008, the destruction of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito was complete. They were going to be declared guilty the following year. Campaigns against a wrongful conviction were some way off – there had been no conviction.
So why was an internet assassination campaign required at all? Who was behind it? What was the real purpose of Peter Quennell’s visit to Italy in January 2008? Why would Harry Rag, the powerhouse of such an operation be so determined to remain anonymous? Who had most to gain from securing the conviction of two innocent students?
The Civil Suit
When the Kercher family arrived in Italy after Meredith’s murder, they were advised to retain a local lawyer to give them a direct link to the prosecution. His name was Francesco Maresca. Later, acting on his advice, they decided to commence a civil suit against Knox and Sollecito, to run in parallel to the criminal trial, before guilt was confirmed. They had made their decision. They were certain that they knew who was responsible for killing Meredith. The trial was merely a formality as far as they were concerned. They had been told that the evidence was clear and the outcome was certain.
Confirmation bias is a powerful force. It can blind people to the truth. It has affected many prosecutors, judges and juries over the centuries. The families and friends of victims are not immune. They are probably more likely to succumb than anyone else. That is why they are excluded from the trial process in many jurisdictions; but not in Italy.
The garbage truck
Harry Rag and his hate sites were not the work of flies following a garbage truck. Harry Rag was driving the garbage truck. He still is. His word is never questioned in Knox hate circles. He is treated with eerie deference. He is connected. He continues to attack these innocent people and their supporters.
When Meredith’s father John Kercher wrote a book about his daughter he repeated many of the misconceptions that Harry Rag and his friends had been perpetrating. A large part of the book was devoted to Amanda Knox.
In the acknowledgements he mentions the True Justice for Meredith Kercher website and calls it, “a vital resource, and one without which it would have been difficult for us to appreciate fully the case that unfolded around Meredith’s murder. For several years the lawyers running the website – without any motivation other than a desire to see true justice done – published daily updates of what was happening in Italy and America. The teams of lawyers in both countries who gave their time for nothing to prepare translations of reports have helped us more than words can say.”
Time to hang up your hang-ups
The ‘lawyers’ have never revealed their identities but it is clear from John Kercher’s words that they played a key role in misleading him and his family. This was a heartless trick and one that was played on a bereaved family at the lowest point in their lives.
Peter Quennell, Harry Rag, anonymous lawyers and followers: You have done enough. You gave it everything you could. You played your part in ensuring that two innocent people served four years in prison. There has been more than enough damage. True justice defeated you in the end. It is time to stop.
“Life lived somehow for love is life never wasted.” – Amanda Knox