When Italy‘s highest court reversed the acquittal of Amanda Knox and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito this week, a small cottage industry on the internet began grinding back into high gear. Actually it has never had a down day: the Knox-hating websites have been passing along innuendo and cherry-picked factoids for six years now.
If you have taken a dive down into the Amanda Knox rabbit hole, you will discover a couple of persistent acronyms. The first is PMF. That would be the Perugia Murder File, operated by a Seattle housewife and former French translator who is dedicated to the guilt of Amanda Knox. The other acronym you will encounter is TJMK, which stands for “True Justice For Meredith Kercher”—the young British woman murdered in this case–and is run by a New Jersey-based Englishman who claims that at one time he consulted at the United Nations.
These sites host extremely active avatars, many proclaiming to be lawyers, forensic experts, criminologists, but who never reveal their true identities. Researching my 2011 book on the Knox case The Fatal Gift of Beauty, I met both moderators behind the acronymic websites. In 2009, I sat down with TJMK founder Peter Quennell, who has always claimed he started the site to make sure that no one forgot the victim. A stout, ruddy Englishman living in New Jersey, he had been holding out the carrot of introducing me to the elusive Kercher family. He seemed vastly knowledgeable and connected. At the time, I also believed that Amanda Knox could be, indeed, a Charles Manson behind a pretty face.
After a month in Italy doing reporting, however, I realized that some of the “facts” on Quennell’s website didn’t seem to be in the police record in Italy. I emailed him to ask where he had found out that Knox and Sollecito met police standing outside the murder house with a mop and bucket in hand. That damning incident was nowhere in the record, not even the prosecutor would confirm it, nor had Italy’s Polizia Scientifica ever tested such items, which would surely have offered up some useful DNA evidence, had they been used to clean blood.
Quennell then accused me by email of being on the Knox family payroll, informed me that his sources in Perugia had seen me consorting with Amanda’s mother (I had in fact met with her once, in a public place, by then) and eventually started writing about how he was going to “train his scope” on my apartment in Manhattan, and closing emails with “how are the kiddies?”
As for PMF, I met with its moderator, Peggy Ganong, in Seattle in 2010, after Knox’s conviction. She told me she first thought Amanda Knox “looked like a killer” after seeing her picture online. Her site has posted translations of the court proceedings but also provides a forum for anonymous but self-described experts who suggest that men who believe Amanda Knox is innocent are driven by lust for her. They also post bilious captions beneath pictures of the Knox family.
There are other players, more diffident, in the Amanda Knox hating universe. One called herself Miss Represented, on a site by that name which dispensed what professed to be expertise in criminal psychology, dedicated to proving Amanda Knox’s psychopathy. The operator of the site turned out to be a young social media expert in Bath, working at a UK social media company, horrified that I had emailed her at work. In a pleading email, she begged me not to publish her real name, which I will not do, and wrote: “Miss Represented was only ever supposed to be a place for my own reflections, some of them I still stand by, some of them I’ve rethought as I’ve gotten a little older and bit more mature.”
I went to Italy thinking I was writing a book about an American girl psycho. After a month in Perugia, I realized the case was shaky, and after a year there, I knew it was nonexistent. But I did enough research on Amanda Knox to conclude that the person she was in 2007 was not perfect, and probably not even very nice. In the sexist media world we inhabit, though, a pretty girl wrongly accused of a heinous crime can’t be just a jerk, she’s got to be a murderess or, in the superstitious alleys of Perugia, a witch.
We don’t know what the Italian judges were thinking when they threw out Knox and Sollecito’s acquittal this week—and we won’t know until they release their report 90 days from now. My best analysis of their motivation is that they are simply letting the slow wheels of Italian justice turn by allowing a panel of judges in Florence to double-check the ruling of the appellate court in Perugia that acquitted the two students in October 2011. Given the notoriety of the case, and the fact that so many Italians still believe the original prosecutor’s theory that Kercher died in a cultish sex-game gone wrong, the high court may merely be applying an extra layer of judicial safeguard.
In my opinion, the new panel will agree with the last one that the case against the students is fatally flawed. I could, of course be wrong. In the eyes of the Knox-haters, I will always be wrong. But another shoe is also about to drop: Harper Collins plans to bring out Amanda Knox’s own book next month. For the company, which paid a reported $4 million for the memoir, the timing cannot be more perfect.