Traces of Blood in the Small Bathroom

[Tracce ematiche nel bagno piccolo, pp. 110 – 114; translated by roteoctober]

As we have already seen, it was Lead Officer [assistente capo] Gioia Brocci who carried out the [evidence] collection in the small bathroom near Meredith’s room on the afternoon of November 2nd 2007.

She stated (ruling [of lower court], page 100) that, in that bathroom, in addition to the mat discussed above,  there were traces which seemed to be of blood.

She specified that they were seepages of a pinkish color, “not the red typical of blood”. She found the latter only on the faucet of the sink.

Concerning the method of collection, she said that she had done the job with a single swab of blotting paper, because “the drop upstream and the drop downstream had a sort of continuity: there were droplets on the same line, hence out of color and continuity of trickling I saw fit to collect them with a single swab” (from the hearing of 04/23/2009).

Traces apparently made of blood were also present on a box of cotton swabs, on the toilet lid [tavoletta], on the light switch, and on the bidet “and there was always the upstream drop, on the rim itself and the same continuity down to the drain of the bidet, of the usual color and on the same line”. Traces were also present on the door of the bathroom, these, however, were not as if they had been mixed with water, but of a bright red color.

At the hearing of 05/22/2009  Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, biologist with the forensic genetic section of the Scientific Police in Rome, related (ruling pp. 198 and 204) that on the light switch, on the toilet lid and on the framework of the door, the blood of the victim had been found, while the samples taken from the bidet, the sink and the cotton-swab box had displayed human blood and a mixed profile of Kercher and Knox. The sample taken from the front part of the tap of the sink, however, had revealed human blood and the genetic profile of Knox alone.

The defendants’ attorneys have severely criticized the method of collection employed on the sink and the bidet.

Footage of this procedure was shown in Court: Officer Brocci is clearly seen to run the same swab of blotting paper again and again several times, with a dragging motion, from the rim of the sink down to the drain and back, and on both sides [of the sink]. The same procedure for the bidet, where the swab – presumably a different one – is used to accurately clean the drain area.

About this procedure, Dr Stefanoni observed “that apparently this might not seem appropriate for collection” but that in that specific context it was, “because of the typology of traces that were collected” which “were clearly pinkish, hence they appeared as traces definitely mixed with water and they were seemingly all of the same origin because they were seepages…a rivulet of sorts starting from above and ending in the drain”.

In her judgement it was improbable that this was a case of two DNA [samples] that were separate at the origin and which then combined in a single trace; as can be read in the ruling on page 212, this was “because of both the single location concerned and the same appearance of very diluted blood”. A statement whose generality and inconsistency need hardly be stressed, all the more so since it is in stark contrast with another statement, much more logical and convincing, made by Stefanoni herself and quoted below.

Now, it is not possible to agree with what Dr. Stefanoni claimed about the correctness of the sampling procedure of the traces on the sink and on the bidet.

It is obvious even to a layperson that the two bathroom fixtures concerned, intended for personal hygiene, are a natural repository of DNA, that is released easily when washing: epithelial cells, organic fluids (sweat, saliva), hair and body hair flow swept by the water and, at least partially, remain on the ceramic surface, particularly in the area around the drain, and there they reside, short of a frequent and accurate cleaning.

It must be remembered that Lead Officer Brocci had occasion to state that she had also collected (ruling, p. 100) a sample of hair on the sink, of whose genetic analysis, however, there is no mention, if it was ever performed. And on the faucet, blood was found belonging only to Knox.

The small bathroom at issue was used by the two girls, Meredith and Amanda, while the other two (Mezzetti and Romanelli) used the larger bathroom.

It seems, then, wholly believable that the DNA of the two girls could be found on the fixtures of the small bathroom.

In such a situation, evidence collection by means of repeatedly rubbing from rim to drain and back, on both sides with the same swab of blotting paper, is, contrary to what Dr. Stefanoni claimed, manifestly the least appropriate way to obtain a reassuring result. Surely in this manner all of the DNA present on the path was collected, creating a mixture that probably did not exist originally.

We must remember what was stated in a general sense by Stefanoni herself and written on page 221 of the ruling: it is not possible to date a trace nor establish whether one was left before another.

More precisely, with specific reference to the traces on the sink and on the bidet, she stated, as can be read in the ruling on page 228 “that they were dry and it was impossible to date them or to determine if the trace attributable to Knox was left first and then that attributable to the victim, or the other way around”.

Thus it seems totally irrelevant, for purposes of a decision unfavorable to Knox, that her DNA was found mixed with the victim’s DNA on the bathroom fixtures.

If, indeed, the mixture had been pre-existent at the moment of application [apposizione], it should also have been detected on the toilet lid, on the light switch and on the door framework: this did not happen, no doubt because the person who put the victim’s blood in that precise spot did not find any DNA previously deposited.

Even more questionable are the genetic results from the samples taken from the cotton-swab container: according to Stefanoni (ruling p. 223) a third person could even be present, also of female sex. And this is because the alleles where very homogeneous in height, and one could think of pairings different from those attributed to Knox and Kercher, so involving other people besides those already present. An opinion shared by Dr. Torricelli, consultant for the Kercher family (ruling, page 243).

Which leads one to think of the superposition of traces at different times — from the jar [barattolo] having passed through several hands — rather than a single contact by the murderer.

So we cannot agree with the relevant conclusions reached in the ruling, on page 405 et seq..

According to the first-level Court, the two defendants, stained with Meredith’s blood, are supposed to have gone into the adjacent small bathroom and washed themselves there (it will be remembered that according to the first judges the footprint on the mat had been left by Sollecito’s right foot).

But if it had been so, one cannot explain why the smallest genetic trace of Sollecito was not found in the small bathroom, despite the fact that the scrubbing due to the cleansing should involve the loss of flaking cells (as we read again in the ruling).

The fact that only Amanda’s DNA was found together with Meredith’s leads us to believe that the mixture was created by the Police during an inappropriate collection operation.

Greater confidence could be placed in the analyses, indeed, if the collection had been made point by point and not through an insistent rubbing, repeated over different points of each fixture.

Next: Staging of Burglary