Part VII in a series on the Knox/Sollecito case
There are connections between the Knox/Sollecito trial in the murder of Meredith Kercher and the “Monster of Florence” case. The latter was a string of murders mainly in the 1970s and 1980s. A series of couples on lovers’ lanes were shot and the female bodies mutilated. Although several people were suspected, it is unlikely that the true culprit was ever found. Knox prosecutor Guiliano Mignini became involved in the Florence case well after the murders. He and an investigator, Michele Giuttari, were seeking a connection between the Monster case and the death of a certain Dr. Narducci in 1985 (p. 208, The Monster of Florence). Mr. Giuttari believed that the lack of an autopsy was evidence that the body in Dr. Narducci’s grave was not really his. On 6 April 2002 the body was exhumed and confirmed to be that of Dr. Narducci (p. 213). Mr. Giuttari and Mr. Mignini then argued that the bodies had been swapped twice, the second time just before it was exhumed.
Mr. Mignini claimed to believe that Mario Spezi, Mr. Preston’s coauthor for the book The Monster of Florence, planted evidence in the Monster of Florence case. Later he and Mr. Giuttari made Mr. Spezi into a suspect in the murders (p. 239). Mr. Spezi was indicted for obstruction of justice in the Narducci case and held in isolation for five days in 2006. Mr. Preston was himself interrogated by Mr. Mignini, after which he left the country because he was indagato for the crimes of reticence and making false statements (p. 259).
It is a shame that Mr. Mignini harassed Mr. Preston and especially Mr. Spezi. Their theory of the crime and their identification of a suspect made much more sense than the baroque conspiracy theory Mr. Mignini and Mr. Giuttari favored. The Committee to Protect Journalists said that their, “research and interviews with Italian journalists, some of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of official retaliation, show a pattern of official harassment against Spezi in connection with his investigation of the ‘Monster of Florence’ case.”
“Mignini filed a request with the preliminary investigation judge of Perugia, Marina De Robertis, to invoke a rarely used law under Italy's criminal code to deny Spezi access to a lawyer for five days, Spezi's lawyer Alessandro Traversi told CPJ. The law is typically applied to the most dangerous criminals, yet Judge De Robertis authorized the measure, and for five days Spezi was denied legal counsel and held incommunicado.”
“An appeals court that day ordered that Spezi be released immediately, but it did not issue an explanation as to why it overruled the judge who authorized the imprisonment. Spezi, 60, spent 22 days in prison after being taken into custody on April 7.”
Now let us move on to the Knox/Sollecito case, starting with something that happened to Mario Spezi (from the new afterward to Douglas Preston’s book The Monster of Florence, pp. 325-326):
“A few moments later a timid and exceedingly nervous young woman approached.
“I’m a fellow journalist here in Perugia,” she said quietly. Could I speak with you a moment?”
Spezi invited her to sit at his table.
She looked about furtively, as if to check if she were being followed. Then she lit a cigarette with a trembling hand and, stumbling over her words, blurted out, “I hope they don’t see us together.”
“Excuse me, Spezi asked, but who is ‘they’?”
“Them, the police. Mignini’s men.”
“And why can’t we be seen together? What are you afraid of?
“My name is Francesca Bene,” she said all in a rush, “and I work for a small newspaper here, the Giornale dell’Umbria. Last July I made what I thought was a real scoop in the case of Meredith Kercher.” [Francesca tells the story of a drug addict’s suspicious behavior on the night of the murder.]
“Then what happened? Why wasn’t there any follow-up?”
“I’ll tell you what happened. “ Francesca Bene looked around again. “The very day I published that story, I was summoned to the prosecutor’s office and interrogated by Mignini’s men—in particular that big policewoman, the same one who interrogated Amanda Knox.” (The one Amanda says struck her.)” “She’s violent; she scares me.”
“What was there to interrogate you about?” Spezi said. “You say your story was corroborated by many witnesses who went on the record.”
“Of course. But that didn’t stop them from indicting me for the crime of inciting public alarm by publishing false information.”
“But that’s absurd.”
“I was afraid. I’m the only one who works in my family and if I lose my job…I was afraid. So I dropped the story.”
My hunch is that the drug addict in question is unrelated to the murder of Meredith Kercher. However, from this information it should be possible to identify the policewoman who allegedly hit Ms. Knox. This incident also says much about Mr. Mignini’s character and the power of the prosecutors in Italy to intimidate journalists.
With this background in mind, I would like to offer Douglas Preston’s insights from the interview he gave to blogger Candace Dempsey: “One other detail that American readers might like to know: in Italy, prosecutors are firmly in charge. They tell the police what to look for, where to go, what evidence to analyze, what evidence not to analyze. In America, the police work independently and are specifically trained in evidence gathering and criminal investigation. In Italy, the police must do what the prosecutor tells them. As a result, many criminal investigations in Italy are botched by prosecutors who are judges, trained in the law, who have no background in criminal investigation, police work, or forensic science.”
Ms. Dempsey has also written about the connections between this case and the Monster of Florence case. Her highlighting of Preston’s and Spezi’s dissection of the word “compatible,” a word applied to certain forensic evidence in the Knox/Sollecito case, is worth pondering.