ROME, July 17, 2009 -- In the days after Amanda Knox's roommate was found murdered, Knox turned down an invitation from a relative to visit her in Germany saying she wanted to answer the investigators' questions and to meet and console her slain roommate's father, according to court testimony today.
Knox's relative testified in Perugia, Italy, today as the testimony phase of the lengthy trial nears as an end. Testimony will wrap up Saturday and the court will take a break until September when closing arguments will be presented.
Knox, 22, of Seattle, and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, are on trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher, the British student who was Knox's roommate. Both girls were on study-abroad programs in the picturesque little hilltown in Italy.
Dorothy Craft Najir, the first-cousin of Knox's mother Edda Mellas, told the court that she urged Knox to come to Germany after the murder.
"I told her to come see me in Germany so she could calm down," Najir said. But Knox said no. "She said she wanted to help the police and answer their questions," Najir added.
Najir also said that Knox had told her that she wanted to meet Kercher's father "to tell him what she thought happened. She wanted to console him, be nice to him, and tell him what she knew." Knox never got a chance to meet Kercher's parents.
Kercher was found dead in a pool of blood on Nov. 2, 2007, her throat slit. Just days after the murder Knox and Sollecito were taken into custody. A third person, a drifter from the Ivory Coast, Rudy Guede, 22, has been convicted of participating in the sexual assault and murder – the result of a sex game gone wrong, prosecutors believe – and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
All three suspects say they are innocent, and Guede has appealed his conviction.
Najir said that she spoke at least six times to Knox in the days after Kercher's murder. "Amanda was worried," Najir told the Italian courtroom in German with the help of an interpreter. "I could tell from the way she spoke. She sounded scared and confused, and I had the feeling she needed her family."
Najir explained that the death of Kercher "had terrified and upset" Knox and that she was afraid that the murderer was still at large.
"She was terrified that there was someone going around killing girls," said Najir. "I told Raffaele to take care of her," she added. Najir said Knox calmed down a bit when she found out that her mother was coming to see her in Italy.
Najir testified that she called Knox regularly after she moved to Perugia to study because she was her closest relative. Knox's maternal grandmother is German and moved to the U.S. and eventually to Seattle after marrying a U.S. soldier. Amanda Knox had visited her cousins in Germany in the summer of 2007 on her way to Perugia, and studies and speaks German fluently.
"I would call Amanda to check up on her," Najir said in court. "I was the closest relative and felt a duty to keep an eye on her," she added.
When Kercher was killed Najir also advised Knox to call the U.S. Embassy where she would find someone from her own country to help her. "But Amanda replied that everything was ok, and she did not need to because she was cooperating and wanted to help the police with its investigation," Najir said.
The judge presiding over the trial, Giancarlo Massei, also questioned Najir briefly, asking her about the morning after the murder when Knox returned to her house after spending the night at Sollecito's, found the door wide open and saw blood in the bathroom, but went ahead and took a shower.
"When she got out of the shower, Amanda noticed something was strange," Najir replied. To which Massei replied, "Only after she got out of the shower?"
Massei has been very attentive to what Knox and her lawyers say she did the morning after the murder, and has asked incisive questions in this regard during the trial, and especially in June when Knox took the stand.
The second witness at today's hearing was mobile telephone expert Bruno Pellero who testified that Sollecito was at his house on the morning of Nov. 2 because his cellphone was turned on at 6:02 a.m. in that location and remained there until 9:30 a.m.
The trial continues on Saturday, for the last hearing before the court takes a two-month break for the summer. It will resume on Sept. 18 with final arguments, which are expected to take over a month. A verdict should arrive by the end of October.
Enzo Beretta contributed to the reporting of this story from Perugia.