x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Meredith: putting a face to the gruesome story of a murder in Italy

John Kercher recounts his daughter's life and the tragedy of her 2007 slaying.

John Kercher
Meredith John Kercher Hodder Dh91

There are some stories that become so pervasive, pored over and picked apart that there comes a point when you must conclude that the story has been done, that there is, simply, nothing left to say.

You might be forgiven for feeling that way about the murder of Meredith Kercher - the 21-year-old British student killed in Perugia on November 1, 2007. Or perhaps more accurately you might be forgiven for feeling that way about the trial, conviction and acquittal of Amanda "Foxy Knoxy" Knox.

Because as unpalatable as it may be, you might even be excused for not immediately recognising Meredith's name, or for not instantly connecting the dots between her and Knox. The latter is, after all, the more recognisable player in this altogether dark drama.

Look through the industry of coverage that bloomed from those first sketchy reports of the discovery of a young woman's body in the Italian university town and it is Knox's name and face that dominate.

Her story became the story. Which is why it is somehow shocking, even shaming, to be forcibly reminded of one simple fact - the fact of Meredith.

Meredith is a father's account of his daughter's murder and, as importantly, her life.

For each day that we watched the girl accused of the crime, Meredith remained invisible. She was a victim twice over, brutally excised from her life and then cut from the narrative that followed.

With this book her father goes some way towards redressing the balance. Many of the most moving sections are just small memories of birthdays or conversations or silly jokes shared. Many were only latterly imbued with tragic significance. At their final lunch they had laughed over Meredith's tale of her protracted search for a duvet. It was the item under which her body was found - a detail that still haunts John. Perhaps it is a mercy that life can only be lived forward and reviewed backwards.

A journalist by trade, John also seeks out his daughter through the testimony of friends, showing paternal pride in what he learns, experiencing the strange wonder of a father realising that his daughter was not only the girl that he loved but that she was becoming a young woman he barely knew.

He writes of her life and he writes of his, her mother's and her siblings' grief. One suspects that in writing there is an attempt to reclaim Meredith as well as to reinstate her at the heart of her own life and death narrative.

It is a heartbreaking read because there is no real end to it for the author, nor can there be. There has been no satisfaction in law, no sense made of what happened, no tying together of disparate threads to bring this sorry tale to a conclusion. Instead there is this story of joy and of grief and of Meredith's family's attempt to hear some echo of the former amid the almost overwhelming clamour and din of the latter.