Police in Germany believe they have arrested the man named as a new suspect in the murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Italy, while one of three original suspects was released from custody this afternoon.
The man believed to be Rudy Hermann Guede, a 20-year-old man originally from the Ivory Coast, was stopped for traveling without a ticket on a train between the towns of Mainz and Wiesbaden. Guede is the new suspect wanted in connection with the murder, and authorities in Italy have been hot on his trail for several days now.
Police thought they had lost him but were able to pick up his movements again Monday night. They were about to leave for Germany this morning to pursue him when the news broke of the arrest.
"I can confirm that an Italian liaison officer working at our police headquarters in Wiesbaden has been involved in the investigation here today and that a lot of circumstantial evidence suggests that the man is indeed the suspect," Mainz police spokeswoman Heidi Naegel told ABC News.
Meanwhile, Congolese pub owner Diya "Patrick" Lumumba was released from the jailhouse in Perugia where he has been detained since Nov. 6 in connection with the murder. His lawyers had been lobbying for his release, arguing that there was a lack of evidence to hold him. According to police sources, no forensic traces have been found linking Lumumba to the crime scene, and he has always maintained that he didn't visit the house where the murder took place.
Kercher's roommate, American exchange student Amanda Knox, remains in jail along with her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. Prosecutors have been allowed up to a year to prepare a case for their possible indictment. Both deny involvement in the murder.
In a police statement that was subsequently leaked to the press, Knox is said to have admitted being in the house at the time of the killing. She told investigators that Lumumba was infatuated with Kercher and was in the British student's bedroom before her murder. The American then denied this in later statements.
Kercher, 21, was found with her throat cut in her bedroom in the student town in central Italy Nov. 2. Her partially clothed body was discovered on the floor by her bed under a duvet at a house she shared with three other women not far from the city center.
Police in Germany are working to confirm that the man they have in custody is the individual wanted for questioning by Italian police in connection with the murder. At the same time, a court in Perugia is preparing the paperwork to allow for his extradition to Italy, a process that could take place in the next few days. Guede's name and photo were released by police in Italy Monday.
News reports suggest forensic experts identified Guede from bloody fingerprints, including one on Kercher's pillow found under her body, and others in the bathroom. His prints were reportedly in Italian police files because of past involvement in alleged petty crime and drug pushing in Italy. However, none of the original suspects reportedly ever mentioned Guede during questioning by police.
Guede is a well-known face in student circles in Perugia, and it is believed he knew both Knox and Kercher.
Today the father of Italian suspect Rafaelle Sollecito spoke to ABC News and other reporters outside the jail in Perugia after visiting his son. Told of Guede's arrest in Germany he said, "I am personally very happy to hear this good news." He insisted that it would be more correct to talk about Guede being "the only man involved in the case, not the fourth."
He stressed that his son didn't know Guede and had never met him. With this arrest, he now hopes the lawyers will be able to clarify his son's position and argue convincingly for his release from jail soon.
Perugia investigators are also hopeful that this new arrest will bring them closer to discovering who was in the house the night of the murder and who did it.
Christel Kucharz contributed reporting from Passau, Germany, and Phoebe Natanson from Rome.