Two former lovers being held over the murder of UK student Meredith Kercher are expected to face each other in court for the first time today.
American Amanda Knox, 21, and Italian Raffaele Sollecito, 24, are expected to attend the second in a series of closed pre-trial hearings in the Italian town of Perugia, where Miss Kercher, 21, was killed last November.
Miss Kercher was found on November 2, semi-naked with her throat cut in her bedroom in the house she shared with Knox and others.
Sollecito’s lawyer Marco Brusco said yesterday that this would be his client’s first encounter with Knox since they were jailed last November and that his client was “not doing so well”.
Sollecito did not show up at the first hearing last week, which his lawyers attributed both to illness and to his desire to avoid an unnecessary brush with the media at a hearing largely devoted to technicalities.
Third suspect Rudy Hermann Guede, 21, originally from the Ivory Coast, will begin a fast-track trial today.
He requested a separate process amid fears of a pact by Knox and Sollecito to frame him for the murder.
Fast-track trials involve a limited number of key witnesses and result in a lesser sentence if the defendant is convicted.
The start of Guede’s trial follows TV channel Italia 1’s airing of CCTV footage purporting to show Miss Kercher returning to her house on the night of the murder, followed by Guede.
The grainy black and white images show from behind the man said to be Guede, walking towards the house in a padded jacket with his hands apparently in his pockets.
His lawyer Valter Biscotti dismissed it as nothing more than tiny dots which prove nothing at all.
He said: “The footage identifies nothing, it just shows a man. It’s not legitimate evidence of anything.”
Guede admits to being in the house on the night of the murder but denies playing any part in it.
The start of his trial, to be held behind closed doors, will see the first appearance in court of the three witnesses who are to testify in his case, said Mr Biscotti.
Guede’s defence will centre on the testimonies of a childhood friend of his, a former teacher of his and an Albanian man, named as Hekuran Kokomani, who claims he saw all three suspects near the scene, Mr Biscotti has said.
He added that the trial was expected to last several weeks, with a verdict coming around the end of October – the same time judge Paolo Micheli is likely to rule on whether Knox and Sollecito will stand trial.
Earlier this week Knox’s lawyer dismissed as “invention” press reports that his client would use a story of lesbian trauma in her defence,
British and Italian press reported that Knox said she was bullied at school because people thought she was a lesbian.
They quoted a hand-written document in which she was said to claim that when her flatmate’s murder took place she was elsewhere telling fellow suspect Sollecito about this experience of bullying.
But her lawyer, Luciano Ghirga, denied this would be used in her defence.
He said: “She has always said she was not at the murder scene at the time, but these stories in the news are invention.”
Miss Kercher’s family will return to Perugia for this next stage in the justice process and will be present in court, their lawyer Francesco Maresca said.
They came face to face with Knox for the first time at the first pre-trial hearing in the Umbrian hilltop town last week.
Knox did not once meet their gaze in the courtroom, according to lawyers.
Cleared former suspect Patrick “Diya” Lumumba is also expected to appear in court today as he is now a civil plaintiff in the case and is claiming damages from Knox for falsely implicating him.
The three suspects are accused of killing Miss Kercher in a bungled sex game but all deny any wrongdoing.
Today’s hearing is scheduled to last two days.