Meredith’s Father John Describes How The Family First Found Out
Posted by Peter Quennell
Above, John and Arline Kercher and Stephanie in Perugia on 6 November 2007 lighting candles for Meredith.
And below, John describes in the Daily Mirror how the terrible news of her death first reached him in south London.
I am at the counter in a bank in Croydon when my mobile phone rings.
It is 2.15pm on November 1 and Meredith is calling from Perugia to see how I am. It’s an unusual time for her to ring. We usually speak most evenings, but rarely during the day.
But today she doesn’t have any classes at university, where she’s studying European Politics and Italian. It’s a public holiday. We chat for two minutes, I tell her I love her and that I’ll call her later. She says she is going out, so it will be the next day.
That will be the last time I ever speak to Meredith. The next day at 5pm I am at home when Meredith’s mother Arline calls to say she’s heard reports that a British girl student has been murdered in Perugia. Obviously, there is concern. But there are thousands of British students in Perugia and you try to use that as a calming influence.
I ring Meredith but get an automated message telling me her mobile is switched off.
For the next half hour I try at least a dozen times before it suddenly starts ringing.
Relief sets in as I believe she’s switched it back on. But still there is no answer. I keep trying for a further half hour.
By now my instincts have kicked in. I have to get information fast.
I call the foreign desk of the Daily Mirror, a paper I have worked with for many years as a freelance journalist.
They tell me they only have sketchy details of the incident but if I call back in an hour they might have more.
It’s an agonising wait, but when I call back I’m told Italian police found the girl’s phone and they have been in touch with people in London. Again, my hopes rise. This must mean that whoever this unfortunate girl is, the family and British police have been notified by now.
But then my worst fears are realised. Thirty minutes later the Mirror calls to tell me they have a name. There’s some initial reluctance from the woman on the phone to give me the information. But I shall never forget her words: “The name going around Italy is Meredith.”
I drop the phone. I don’t believe it and think there must be a mistake. But I know it’s probably true. I can’t cry. I’m numb with shock.
A friend drives me to Meredith’s mother and on the way, I phone the Foreign Office to see if they can confirm what I’d been told.
They say they don’t have full details and I shouldn’t necessarily jump to conclusions.
Within an hour our family - Meredith’s sister Stephanie and brothers John and Lyle - have gathered at the house.
We’re all distraught. By now, Arline has spoken to the Foreign Office who confirm the worst. At 9pm, Meredith’s photo comes on the news. The room falls silent. We all hug.
The next day we learn some of Meredith’s old school friends plan to lay flowers at her former school in Croydon.
We go to meet them, expecting half a dozen - but there are more than 70.
It’s unbelievably touching. Some have come from universities around the country.
A small service is held in the school gardens.
Nothing prepared us for having to fly to Italy to formally identify her body and we had no idea how much her death had touched the world.
At the morgue, journalists, Italian chief of police and many others are close to tears. Arline and Stephanie go in to see Meredith. But I can’t because it would have put a full stop to my memory of her.
I had last seen her a couple of weeks before, when she flew home to buy winter clothes. We met for a coffee and she showed me some boots she had bought.
I want that to be the one memory of my daughter I hold in my mind for ever.
It’s dreadful having to wait six weeks before we can lay Meredith to rest, while police investigate. The funeral stuns me.
I didn’t expect the more than 500 people who attend. Her friends have flown in from Canada, Europe and Japan.
Afterwards, hundreds of messages flood the internet. Many are from as far as Australia and Brazil, people who never knew her but are touched by her tragic passing and who loved her smile.
Even in death she seems to reach out to people. Arline has helped me with our fond memories of Meredith as a tot. How Meredith enjoyed many things from an early age.
She went to ballet and in her teens did karate, reaching her third belt.
At school she loved reading. She wrote poetry and stories.
She was always good company and her sense of humour always had us and others laughing. The sense of the ridiculous stayed with her. She had such life and vitality and made friends wherever she went. Meredith really enjoyed Halloween.
As a youngster she would make a costume from bin liners, put candles in the pumpkins with faces, tie them to sticks and then we would visit neighbours.
It is ironic and tragic that she would die so terribly only one day after Halloween.
As Arline puts it, Meredith leaves a void that can never be filled. But wonderful memories of her live on in our hearts. All of us who knew her know what we lost.
Meredith is not only a terrible loss to her family and friends, she is also a huge loss to the world.
Heartbreaking. I keep praying that Raffalle & Amanda hear the pain of the family and decide that they cannot continue with the lie.
Absolutely heartbreaking. I hope the Kercher family finds peace one day.
My heart aches for what each family member has been forced to endure during this judicial process. We cannot imagine.
Thank you for sharing this story, we tread softly.
Where next:Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page
Or to previous entry Today The Media Picks Up On That Tragically Evocative Music Video