Amanda Knox, the American student who claims that she was not even present when her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, was murdered, was caught on closed-circuit television entering the house on the evening of the crime.
Police in the Italian city of Perugia said that the image was "clear cut," and flatly contradicted Knox's latest version of events, in which she reverted to her original assertion that she had spent the night of the murder with her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and was not at the whitewashed cottage she shared with Kercher and two Italian female students.
Kercher, 21, a Leeds University language student from Coulsdon, South London, was found dead in her bedroom last Friday, semi-naked and with her throat cut.
The CCTV image of Knox was timed at 8.43 p.m. on the night of the killing. Forensic experts have put the time of Kercher's death at some time between 8.30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Police said Kercher was visible because she was wearing light clothing, whereas others might not have been recorded by the surveillance camera at a parking area overlooking the cottage because they were wearing darker clothes.
Police are looking for a fourth person in addition to Knox, Sollecito and Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, a Congolese bar owner and musician. The fourth person is believed to be a North African man. Some reports today in the Italian media said there may even have been another woman present, as a high heel imprint had been found at the cottage which was not that of Knox or the two Italian flatmates.
Knox has changed her version of events at least three times. Over the weekend, she told her mother, Edda Mellas, who visited her in prison, that she had told the truth when first questioned by police, telling them that she had been at Sollecito's flat all night.
She changed her story in later interrogations, admitting that she had been at the cottage but claiming that Kercher had been killed by Lumumba. In that version, she said she had heard Kercher screaming from the bedroom but had stayed in the kitchen, blocking out the sound of her flatmate's death throes by putting her fingers in her ears. She then told her mother over the weekend that this was untrue, and she had "not moved" all evening and all night from Sollecito's flat.
Police, by contrast, allege that she was in the bedroom and assisted in murder and attempted rape, perhaps by holding Kercher down. Sollecito has testified that he and Knox had separated at 9 p.m. and did not see her again until she returned to his flat at about 1 a.m. He insists that he was not at the cottage.
Police questioned a Swiss professor today who, together with other witnesses, said that he could back up Lumumba's claim that he was at his bar in Perugia on the evening of the murder. The professor, who has not been named, told police that he was at Lumumba's bar between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Police questioned him for seven hours, but said that they had found his confirmation of Lumumba's alibi unconvincing. He was able to confirm that he had been at Lumumba's bar on the evening of the murder, but could not swear the bar owner had been present throughout. Giuseppe Sereni, Lumunba's lawyer, said he would produce 20 other witnesses to back up his client's alibi.
Police said that Sollecito's alibi also did not stand up, since he had claimed to have spoken to his father on his flat's landline at 11:30 p.m., but phone records showed no evidence of any such call. Sollecito was due to have defended a dissertation in Perugia this week, the final hurdle in his study for a degree in computer sciences.
Fr. Saulo Scarabattoli, the chaplain at the prison outside Perugia where the three suspects are being held in isolation from each other, said that his impression was that Knox, who was brought up a Catholic, was "turning to religion."
He said that she had asked to attend mass on Sunday but this had been refused because she was not allowed contact with other prisoners. He said that although she had attended a Jesuit school in the U.S., Knox had told him she did not believe in anything and had no religious education.
Scarabattoli said Knox was "looking for meaning in her life. I told her that life was like a train journey in which you are heading for a station immersed in fog and all the passengers have different expectations."
He said he had given her a copy of the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana with a commentary from St. Luke on the Resurrection. "She asked me what the Resurrection was," the priest said, adding that he would take her a copy of the Gospels on his next visit. She has asked for an Italian-English dictionary.
Police said that Knox's room at the cottage must have been "thoroughly cleaned" after the crime, as no traces of her fingerprints had been found in the room. She had occupied the room since the beginning of September.
Kercher's body was flown to Heathrow from Rome yesterday despite a last-minute attempt by lawyers for Lumumba to hold the body in Italy for a new post-mortem examination because of confusion over the timing of Kercher's death. Police pathologists had first said that she died between midnight and 2 a.m. A man has told police that he heard "raised voices" when passing the cottage about 2 a.m.
If Kercher died earlier, however, police suspect that Lumumba could have committed the crime and still made it back to the bar, where the first receipt he printed out is timed at 10:29 p.m. The walk from the cottage to the bar takes about ten minutes. Traces of Lumumba's mobile phone place him at 8:38 p.m. in an area that does not cover his bar, but does include the cottage, police say.
Forensic tests begin in Rome today of the blood and fluid traces taken from the crime scene, and knives found in Sollecito's possession.
Grainy photographs of the scene of the crime were published in some Italian papers today, showing a bloodstained duvet with the dead girl's foot sticking out.
A report issued by Judge Claudia Matteini alleges that Kercher was sexually abused by Knox, Sollecito and Lumumba before being stabbed in the throat.