Briton's murder probed in cyberspace

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 5:17 PM | 0 comments »

The quintessentially low-tech murder of a British exchange student in Italy has turned up a preponderance of hi-tech clues, from mobile phone technology to everything the Internet has to offer.

Detectives probing the November 1 stabbing death of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher have closed in on their suspects in the sex-and-drugs whodunnit with the help of text messages and web-based telephony.

One of the earliest clues in the probe was a text message from Kercher's American flatmate Amanda Knox, 20, to Congolese bar owner Patrick Lumumba Diya on the night of the murder, reading "See you later."

Diya, in his late thirties - who was released from custody on Tuesday, hours after a new suspect was arrested in Germany - says he was pulling pints at his pub Le Chic at the time, and the message should not be taken literally.

But reports said Diya's mobile phone emitted a signal from the zone of the murder scene that evening.

Forensic investigators, still undecided over how to interpret the contents of Kercher's stomach in the autopsy, have yet to conclude the exact moment of her death.

Internet postings have also heavily influenced media and public perceptions in the case.

Knox no doubt regrets some YouTube footage showing her appearing drunk, as well as her MySpace page, signed "Foxy Knoxy" and since removed from the web, which displayed a picture of her laughing while handling a machinegun.

The investigating magistrate in the case reportedly said Knox and her 24-year-old Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito had spent the afternoon of the "sexually motivated" murder smoking hash.

Sollecito, also in custody, posted a photo of himself wearing something like a hazardous materials suit, brandishing a cleaver and holding a container of pink liquid in his other hand, while Knox reportedly posted a short story that referred to a woman's rape.

Meanwhile, Tuesday's arrest of Ivorian Rudy Hermann Guede, 20, was thanks partly to the Skype web-based telephone system.

After Perugia police identified some of Guede's friends by surfing the Internet, one agreed to come to the police station, where he conversed with the suspect using Skype.

Guede was responding from an internet cafe in Germany, ANSA said.

The probe has also produced a text message that turned out to be a total, though tantalising, red herring.

After reading media reports of the murder, a Roman witness contacted Perugia police to report having received an SMS reading: "For me, tonight or tomorrow, Meredith dies."

The message was sent on October 31 - the eve of the murder and Halloween - the day that Italian television was due to broadcast an episode of the medical soap opera Grey's Anatomy in which the main character, Dr. Meredith Grey, nearly dies in a ferry accident.

None of the suspects in the Kercher case was linked to the SMS.