Congolese bar owner says Knox ruined his life

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 26, 2011 12:50 PM
Congolese bar owner says Knox ruined his life

By Deepa Babington

PERUGIA, Italy (Reuters) - A Congolese bar owner falsely accused of murder by Amanda Knox told Reuters he is still paying for the American student's lies that destroyed his life and business.

"Try to imagine -- a person being accused not just of murder but of sexual assault. This kind of thing changes your life -- you become locked inside a prison where you're accused of killing a person and this stays in your mind," said Patrick Lumumba.

"I hope things change with time but, for now, I still keep checking my door at night to see if it is locked. It's when you get the sensation that someone wants to hurt you."

Lumumba was jailed briefly and then cleared of murdering British student Meredith Kercher in 2007.

Lumumba says the police investigation forced him to shut his bar, Le Chic, in the hilltop Italian university town popular with foreigners and left him with "enormous" losses.

"My most important hope is that all this can be put behind and become like a dream," he told Reuters outside the courthouse where Knox's appeals trial is in its final stages.

"I can try to rebuild everything else in my life, but I hope one day soon it remains just a memory."

Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend were found guilty in 2009 of murdering Kercher during a drug-fueled sexual assault. Both are appealing the verdict, and a decision in the appeals trial is expected at the end of this week or early next week.

Lumumba successfully sued the Seattle student for slander and has been in the courtroom daily as the trial wraps up.

Knox's false accusation is a key part of the case argued by prosecutors, who have depicted her as a devious young woman who pointed the finger at Lumumba to throw police off the right track, thinking a black man would be an easy suspect.

"If she had picked a Spanish or French citizen -- a white person -- the police would have spent more time thinking about it," he said.

"But Patrick -- he's a black man, look, everyone could believe it. Look, with this image of her all red and crying, saying it's Patrick."

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Questioned by police days after Kercher's body was found in a pool of blood, Knox accused Lumumba and said she had covered her ears to drown out her roommate's screams.

She later retracted the story, saying it was made under pressure from police who threatened her with jail.

Lumumba's lawyer launched a sharp attack in court on Knox's character on Monday, calling her diabolic, satanic, a she-devil and a witch of deception.

Lumumba, who has since returned to university studies, says he has forgiven Knox. But she must pay the price required by the justice system for her actions, he says.

"I've said many times that I've forgiven her, I don't have space in my heart for hatred toward her," he said.

"But this doesn't mean justice shouldn't be served. Justice needs to be served for the future, for the good of humanity."

(Editing by Robert Woodward)