AC Cobra

The AC Cobra was a British built and designed sports car that was produced during the 1960s.

History and development

Peter Brock's Daytona Sportscar on the day before his fatal accident
In an effort to improve top speed along the legendary Mulsanne Straight at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, a number of enclosed, coupe variations were constructed using the leafspring chassis and running gear of the AC/Shelby Cobra Mark II. The most famous and numerous of these were the official works Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupes. Six were constructed in total, each being subtly different from the rest. AC also produced a Le Mans coupe. The car was a one-off and was nearly destroyed after a high-speed tire blow-out at the 1964 Le Mans race. It has now been completely rebuilt and now sits in private hands in England. The third significant Cobra-based coupe was the Willment Cobra Coupe built by the JWA racing team. A road-going Shelby Daytona Cobra replica is being manufactured by Superformance and Factory Five Racing, a well known kit car company. These cars use Peter Brock's bodywork designs, scaled up to increase room inside, and a newly designed spaceframe chassis, they are powered by Roush-built Ford Windsor (Sportsman) engines. The Superformance Shelby Daytona Coupe is the only modern-day vehicle recognized by Shelby as a successor to the original Coupes. Peter Brock's Australian namesake, the race car driver, was killed while driving a GM-powered replica of a Shelby Daytona Coupe in competition in Australia in 2006.

Continuation cars

From the late 1980s onwards, Carroll Shelby and associated companies have built what are known in the hobby as "Continuation Cars", Shelby authorized continuations of the original AC bodied Shelby Cobra series. Initially the car everyone wanted in a Continuation was a 427 S/C model which was represented in the CSX4000 series. This was meant to continue where the last 427 S/C production left off, at approximately serial number CSX3560 in the 1960s.
The initial CSX4000 series cars were completed from new old stock as well as newly manufactured parts. Gradually as the vintage parts supply ran low, newly constructed frames and body panels were obtained from a variety of suppliers. The production of chassis numbers CSX4001 to CSX4999 took roughly 20 years and many different business relationships to complete.
All models of Cobra produced are available now as continuations. In 2009, CSX4999 was produced, concluding the 4000 series. Production has continued with the CSX6000 serial numbers, featuring "coil over" suspension. The 289 FIA "leaf spring" race version of the car is reproduced as CSX7000, and the original "slab side" leaf spring street car is the CSX8000 series.
To date most continuations are produced in fiberglass, with some ordering cars with aluminum or carbon fibre bodywork.
Super Snake
Shelby Motors built 22 427 competition roadsters. In 1965, one was selected and converted into a special model called the 427 "Cobra to End All Cobras." The first one of these (number CSX3015) was originally part of a European promotional tour before its conversion. This conversion called for making the original racing model street legal with mufflers, a windshield and bumpers amongst other modifications. But some things were not modified, including the racing rear end, brakes and headers. The most notable modification is the addition of Twin Paxton Superchargers. This gave the car an alleged 800 brake horsepower (bhp) and 462 Ft pounds of torque at an astounding low of 3000 rpm. Officially rated at 0-to-60 at 4.5 seconds, legend and lore have it as doing that in a little over 3 seconds as one must lay off the throttle heavily just to get traction off the line.
Another non-competition 427 roadster, CSX3303, was converted and given to Shelby's close friend, Bill Cosby. Cosby attempted to drive the super-fast Cobra, but had issues with keeping it under control. This was humorously documented in Cosby's album titled "Bill Cosby, 200 M.P.H." Cosby gave the car back to Shelby, who then shipped it out to one of their dealers in San Francisco, S&C Ford on Van Ness Avenue. S&C Ford then sold it to customer Tony Maxey. Maxey, suffering the same issues as Cosby did with the car, lost control and drove it off of a cliff, landing in the Pacific Ocean waters. It is to be noted that Maxey's accident was largely speculated as suicide. It was eventually recovered and the wreckage was bought by Brian Angliss of AC/Autokraft. Since CSX3303 was so badly damaged in the Maxey accident, it is doubtful that much of the original car will surface in the restored version.
Shelby's original model, CSX3015, was kept by Carroll Shelby himself over the years as a personal car, sometimes entering it into local races like the Turismos Visitadores Cannonball-Run race in Nevada, where he was "waking [up] whole towns, blowing out windows, throwing belts and catching fire a couple of times, but finishing." CSX3015 was auctioned off on 22 January 2007 at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event in Scottsdale, Arizona for $5 million plus commission (a record for Cobras, as well as for a Barrett-Jackson sell price)


The 50 Biggest Movies of 2009

Our selection of the fifty most exciting blockbuster films for the year ahead

2008 was something of a vintage year for popcorn-munchers. But is there a 2009 film that can equal the colossal success of The Dark Knight? Which hot franchises will step up to fill the spaces left by Batman, Bond and Indy?

We’ve taken a look through the studio schedules and picked out the most promising prospects for the coming year. History tells us that when times are tough, box office takings boom. Here’s our selection of the best films Hollywood has to offer us in 2009.

Click on the links to discover movie trailers, stills, official sites and more.

Do you agree with our selection? What have we missed? Have your say in the comments.

50: The Pink Panther 2 (February 2009)

Moviegoers might well be tempted by the impressive cast lining up for this wholly unnecessary sequel to a completely superfluous continuation of the once mighty comedy franchise. Steve Martin, Jean Reno, John Cleese and Andy Garcia may be acting greats, but for signing up to this they should hang their heads in shame.

49: Friday the 13th (February)

Back to Camp Crystal Lake again. The twelfth (couldn’t they have made it 13?) Friday the 13th movie is apparently a remake of the first film in the venerable teen slasher series, so long-time fans will have a fair idea what to expect. Probably not the ideal date movie for February 14.

48: Red Sonja (No release date announced)

Despite months of rumour about a new Conan movie, it’s his female counterpart Red Sonja who seems to be returning to the big screen first. There's some confusion about a release date for this film although the generally reliable IMDB has it hitting screens in late 2009. Planet Terror and Sin City director Robert Rodriguez re-teams with Grindhouse alumna Rose McGowan, who seems a somewhat unlikely choice as the Xena-type who fights her way across a sword-and-sorcery Hyborian landscape wearing as little as the censors will allow.

47: Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (May)

A repeat of 2006’s ‘museum comes to life’ cameo jamboree with more or less everyone except Robin Williams back at the end of May to ham it up for the entertainment of young and undemanding cinemagoers. The film will need something very special in terms of advance reviews to give it any commercial visibility in what promises to be a very busy month at the movies. Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson and Ricky Gervais are already crossing their fingers.

46: Fast & Furious (June)

Fourth in the franchise but (and pay attention, there will be a test) occupying the number three slot in the series narrative, the movie will take the story back to its very beginnings. Paul Walker and Vin Diesel reunite in the franchise that inspired a million minor motoring offences.

45: Spy Hunter (no release date announced)

Video game adaptations are rarely beloved of the cinema cognoscenti and there’s little likelihood that Spy Hunter will break that honourable tradition. The game is a fairly routine ‘heavily armed spy and supercar’ adventure distinguished only by a voice and motion capture contribution from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson who, one imagines, must be favourite to play the lead in what we can safely assume will be an undemanding popcorner. Englishman Paul WS Anderson, of Alien vs Predator and Resident Evil fame, is slated to direct.

44: Nine (December)

In a year packed with remakes, this is perhaps the bravest of all: taking on Fellini’s hugely influential 8½ but going just that little bit further, it’s the behind-the-scenes story of an Italian movie director featuring a stellar cast (Including Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz and Dame Judi Dench), some of whom will be singing. The purists will be furious, the rest of us merely sceptical. Mamma Mia it isn’t.

43: Knowing (March)

A teacher (Nicolas Cage) opens a time capsule that has been dug up at his son's elementary school; in it are some chilling predictions -- some of events that have already occurred and others that are about to -- that lead him to believe his family plays a role in the events that are due to unfold

42: Them (no release date announced)

Them, a recently announced feature to be directed by Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz’s Edgar Wright, is not, as far as we can tell, an update of the hoary old giant ant chiller but a fictionalised adaptation of Jon Ronson’s investigative book about the shadowy conspiracies that operate behind our notional governments. Unless it turns out that the Illuminati and the Bilderberg Group actually are all enormous ants.

41: Ninja Assassin (no release date announced)

Few star names – unless you remember Korean pop star Rain from the Wachowskis hallucinogenic Speed Racer – feature in this standard ‘assassin rebels against his masters’ tale. The title alone though promises to give Ninja Assassin that internet-friendly Snakes on a Plane appeal that should ensure a decent performance at the box office.

40: The Proposal (August)

A rom-com based on the morally rather questionable premise of a book editor (hence the title) forcing one of her subordinates to marry her so that she can gain US citizenship. Sandra Bullock is probably due another hit, and Malin Akerman still be surfing on the huge wave of excitement about Watchmen will but whether audiences will buy this rather dubious plot (remember Green Card?) remains to be seen.

39: Planet 51 (November)

A classic 1950s B-Movie plot – alien lands among the white picket fences of a fearful, simple small-town community. The twist is that the alien is an Earthly astronaut and the small town folk are little green men. A promising CG-animated caper for younger cinemagoers in the 2009 Christmas holiday.

38: The Box (March)

Set, apparently, in the Seventies, The Box is the story of a young married couple who are given a mysterious box that has uncanny, deadly powers. Somehow connecting time travel, the 1976 Viking Mars lander, teleportation and kipper ties. With former X-Man James Marsden, the always watchable Cameron Diaz and the sinister presence of Frank Langella it’s an intriguing prospect indeed.

37: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (January)

ona Mitra takes over from Kate Beckinsale as the female lead in the third instalment of the Vampires versus Werewolves saga. A prequel, it’s set before the birth of Beckinsale’s character, neatly sidestepping complaints about the regrettable absence of her PVC clad form. Unlikely to attract quite as many cinemagoers as its predecessor, it might still fill a dull winter’s evening.

36: Creature from the Black Lagoon (no release date announced)

Little is known so far of this planned remake of the classic 1954 creature feature which is to be helmed by Sahara director Breck Eisner. Bill Paxton is rumoured to be leading the team, which discovers a hitherto undocumented amphibious humanoid in the depths of the South American jungle. In keeping with the current remake mania, Eisners next project is expected to be a new version of Flash Gordon.

35: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (August)

G.I Joe is a bigger name in the US: the toy line that we called Action Man gave rise to a popular 1980s cartoon series and long-running comics franchise. Without the solid bed of nostalgia that will give it a running start in its homeland, the movie’s appeal over here stands or falls on its star director – Stephen Sommers from the enjoyably silly Mummy films - and stellar cast, including Christopher Eccleston and Sienna Miller as well as Sommers’s old Mummy pals Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo. If August 2009 is as much of a washout as 2008’s, summer legions of staycationers will be flocking to cinemas looking for some easygoing escapism, and this might just be it.

34: Fanboys (February)

The long-delayed comedy which sees a group of rabid Star Wars fanatics attempting to steal an early print of The Phantom Menace for their dying pal finally gets a release early in 2009. A version of the movie with the cancer-stricken fan removed nearly made it to cinemas in 2008 but was met with a vast internet campaign that demonstrated the awesome power of the fanboy. We’re assured that the movie will finally be released in early 2009

33: Inkheart (January)

Brendan Fraser, fast becoming Hollywood’s go-to guy whenever kiddie-friendly action is required, joins with Andy Serkis, the man behind Gollum and King Kong, in this umpteenth attempt at the now-traditional ‘storybook miraculously comes to life’ plot. A little early for the half term crowd, but Fraser’s undeniable charm should bring in a few viewers.

32: The Surrogates (December)

A promisingly thoughtful sci-fi concept. Humanity is housebound and relies on remote-controlled drones to handle all the outdoors work. Bruce Willis stars as a futuristic detective investigating the apparent murder of these ‘surrogates’alongside former Bond Girl Rosamund Pike and charismatic bruiser Ving Rhames.

31: The International (February)

What could be more timely than a drama about the international banking system? Clearly, the producers didn’t appreciate the serendipity because it was delayed while additional, more action-packed, scenes were added. Will the world be tired of hearing about bankers by February? Naomi Watts and the thinking woman’s action man Clive Owen rather hope not.

30: The Wolf Man (April)

We’ve had modern takes on Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and The Mummy, so it was only a matter of time before The Wolfman was disinterred for another howl around the moors. More important than star Benicio Del Toro will be the inclusion of everybody’s favourite wolfman, makeup supremo Rick Baker who provided the eye-popping transformations in American Werewolf in London and The Howling. Anthony Hopkins turns up as the unfortunate lycanthrope’s father. Art Malik and Hugo Weaving will also be along for what promises to be a dark and disturbing ride.

29: The Spirit (January)

Will Eisner was one of the first comics writers to achieve personal fame and his best known creation, The Spirit, is considered by aficionados to be one of the great heroes of comics’ Golden Age. It’s surprising that we’ve had to wait this long to see the lighthearted Noir detective on the big screen. The director who has brought The Spirit to life is Frank Miller, himself a star comics writer (he wrote 300 and completely reinvigorated the industry in the 1980s with his Dark Knight Batman miniseries). Featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes the movie is shot in the same stylised hyper-realistic way that characterized Miller’s previous movie, Sin City. The Spirit is unlikely to break out of the fanboy demographic, but should provide undemanding comic book thrills in the long, cold weeks before Watchmen appears

28: A Perfect Getaway (March)

A complex twisty-turny chase thriller filmed in Puerto Rico but set in Hawaii and starring Milla Jovovich and, in a rare lead role, Hitman star Timothy Olyphant. Ideal for movie fans who like to be kept guessing until the final scene, it’s about a honeymooning couple pursued across the picturesque island by a pair of relentless killers. Expect the unexpected.

27: The Birds (no release date announced)

Few details are available about this re-make of Hitchcock’s strangest movie. Naomi Watts is reputedly playing Melanie Daniels, the mischievous socialite portrayed byTippi Hedren in the 1963 film, and there’s talk of George Clooney for the role of Mitch Brenner, the smoothly irresistible lawyer who draws her to the doomed township of Bodega Bay.

26: S. Darko (no release date announced)

An unexpected sequel to 2001’s hallucinatory time loop brain-teaser Donnie Darko, which already has fans of the original film near-apoplectic at its superfluity. Curiosity value alone guarantees S. Darko a strong opening weekend. Word of mouth will determine whether it can survive in theatres for more than a week, but it could equally become a cult smash.

25: Hannah Montana (May)

Dolly Parton, Tyra Banks, Heather Locklear and of course Billy Ray Cyrus help Destiny 'Miley' Cyrus bring the massively popular tween pop character to the big screen. In the wake of the vast box office for High School Musical 3, Hannah Montana looks like a safe bet for the big cinema smash of the Easter school break.Disney site

24: Dorian Gray (November)

The classic Oscar Wilde fable retold by an impressive collection of British thespian eye-candy including Colin Firth and Emilia Fox. Ben Barnes, little known outside the Narnia cognoscenti or the few remaining fans of doomed boyband Hyrise, plays the dissipated fop with the magical portrait.

23: Sherlock Holmes (November)

Some extraordinary casting distinguishes the umpteenth Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. as a tough, sword-flourishing Holmes and Jude Law as an even tougher, no-nonsense Watson in Guy Ritchie’s ‘reimagining’ of the ultimate sleuth. Based on Lionel Wigram’s comic book about the consulting detective rather than directly upon Conan Doyle’s books, the film also features Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, the captivating femme fatale introduced in an 1891 Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia

22: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (July)

Playing fast and loose with the accepted chronology of the age of the dinosaurs this third instalment of the CGI school holiday favourite has the primitive mammal heroes of the first two films somehow getting mixed up with a ‘lost world’ of surviving dinosaurs trapped beneath a glacier. John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, and Denis Leary provide voices for the computer created critters. Certain to both entertain undemanding under-fives and infuriate palaeontologists in equal measure, this has the air of being the last film in the series.

21: Nottingham (November)

Russell Crowe plays dual roles in this revision of the Robin Hood legend. If you can trust anyone, it’s a bona fide cinema genius like director Ridley Scott but Hood and Nottingham with the same face sounds like a recipe for chuckles rather than thrills.

20: Bride Wars (January)

Bride Wars is evidence that blockbuster movies aren’t always for the boys. With a near-unbeatable chick flick cast (Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Candice Bergen), it’s an implausible tale of best friends clashing over a wedding day scheduling conflict. With the release date close enough to Valentine’s Day to warrant inclusion on the schedule of a fair percentage of early February dinner dates, it stands a reasonable chance of a strong mid-table performance on the box-office charts for the year.

19: 2012 (July)

Master of disaster Roland Emmerich (The Day after Tomorrow, Godzilla, Independence Day) assembles an impressive cast including John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson and Danny Glover for an apocalyptic epic based on a 7th Century Mayan prophecy. Never one to do things by halves, Emmerich will apparently open the film with the end of the world as we know it and let things escalate from there.

18: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (January)

rad Pitt leads the cast of this fable taken from an F.Scott Fitzgerald story about a man who is born in his seventies and ages in reverse. Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton feature in a story that spans a lifetime.

17: The Lovely Bones (March)

Saoirse Ronan narrates from beyond the grave in this brave adaptation of Alice Sebold’s practically unfilmable novel. A fine cast (not only Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon but also Stanley Tucci, former Soprano and now Life on Mars star Michael Imperioli and winner of the ‘most unpredictable career choices’ award Mark Wahlberg) added to Lord of the Rings (and more importantly Heavenly Creatures) director Peter Jackson’s formidable talent promise a thoughtful, thought-provoking gem.

16: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (no release date announced)

A Terry Gilliam film is always something of a curiosity: ploughing his own off-kilter furrow away from the calcified strictures of Hollywood cliché, he has made films that, while differing wildly in subject matter (Brazil, The Fisher King, Baron Munchausen), share a distinctively baroque surrealism. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a curiosity even among Gilliam films, containing as it does the final performance of Heath Ledger. Because Ledger did not survive to complete the movie, Gilliam has enlisted Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law to share the lead role with the departed star. Adding an extra surreal twist to the Faustian fantasy, this is sure to be one of the most talked-about films of 2009.

15: Coraline (May)

Cult author Neil Gaiman’s dark fairytale gets a faithful adaptation which will entrance anyone who enjoyed Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas or, indeed, anyone who has ever escaped through a secret door in their bedroom that leads to a mysterious parallel version of their own home.

14: They Came from Upstairs (July)

Ashley Tisdale, the delightfully pushy blonde Sharpay from High School Musical, leads a group of teens fighting an alien invasion in this light-hearted family adventure. Closer to Gremlins or Critters than War of the Worlds, They Came from Upstairs will be one of those guilty movie gems films you might take a young relative along to, but secretly quite enjoy.

13: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (June)

The inevitable sequel to last year’s surprise hit features more action, more laughs, and more shape-shifting robots. Michael Bay and Shia LeBoef return as director and star respectively with the astoundingly attractive Megan Fox as Shia’s love interest, a more international battleground and the eagerly anticipated introduction of fan favourite Soundwave.

12: The Taking of Pelham 123 (August)

If there’s a unifying trend to 2009 it’s the classic remake, and The Taking of Pelham 123 is nothing if not a classic. A major influence on new genre filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino (note the colour-coded names for the main characters) the 1970s original doesn’t seem in much need of an update. Nevertheless director Tony Scott, who’s been a little quiet for the last few years, has recruited old pal Denzel Washington as well as John Travolta and James Gandolfini to revisit the brilliantly improbable tube train hijack caper. Purists who are wincing at the thought should probably know now that Scott plans to start work on a retread of The Warriors next.

1: The Informant (September)

Matt Damon and Scott Bakula star in Steven Soderbergh’s promising black comedy based on a true story about the ostensibly dull world of agribusiness price fixing. If you enjoyed The Insider and would like to see much the same film again, but this time laced with some mordant humour and featuring a bipolar hero, this might be just the movie for you.

10: Inglourious Basterds (June)

Quentin Tarantino returns with an eclectic cast (Brad Pitt, Mike Myers and star of Hitcock's The Birds Rod Taylor) and another one of his playful reinventions of 1970s genre cinema. This time he moves from the American underworld to World War 2, with a team of Jewish-American special forces operating behind German lines, terminating Nazi commanders with extreme prejudice. Anyone who likes Tarantino, war movies in the vein of The Dirty Dozen or Nazis getting their comeuppance will undoubtedly love this movie. Fans of correct spelling may be less thrilled.

9: Terminator Salvation (June

The long-awaited ‘future war’ segment of the Terminator saga, previously only hinted at in the first three movies, dominates proceedings in Charlie’s Angels director McG’s bold reawakening of the killer robot franchise. Christian Bale, fresh from his spectacular triumph as one fanboy hero in Dark Knight essays another - John Connor, charismatic leader of the anti-Skynet forces who the Terminators have been trying to eliminate for the last three films. Roland Kickinger will be the principal Terminator this because Arnold Schwarzenegger is said to be too busy running California to appear as the iconic cyborg killing machine and Anton Yelchin, Sam Worthington and Helena Bonham-Carter are along for the ride.

8: Monsters vs. Aliens (April)

A CGI mock-B-movie with a distinctly eclectic cast list - Kiefer Sutherland, Hugh Laurie, and Stephen Colbert lend their voices., Monsters v Aliens will go some of the way towards sating the enormous demand for a second Incredibles movie. Reese Witherspoon provides the voice of a young Californian woman who grows to gigantic size, after a freak meteorite encounter, and is recruited into a secret agency of super-freaks who are sent to battle a gigantic alien robot.

7: Avatar (December)

James Cameron’s long-awaited high-technology blockbuster shares some basic ideas with The Surrogates (Humans use humanoid remote drones, in this case to explore an alien planet) and some with Planet 51 (we are the invaders). In terms of technological ambition and cinematic reach though, this movie should be without equal. Sigourney Weaver, who combined so well for Cameron in the past reunites with her Aliens director As long as Cameron doesn’t allow the story to become too cerebral for mainstream audiences Avatar stands a fair chance of being the biggest movie of the year.

6: Angels & Demons (May)

In the wake of the Da Vinci Code, another recklessly improbable Dan Brown adventure gets the Tom Hanks treatment. Ewan McGregor comes on board this time for a breakneck chase around Vatican City in search of some antimatter, the Illuminati and a decent haircut. The critics will snigger, and Dan Brown fans (of whom there are many) will ignore them and make May one of the busiest months at the box office.

5: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May)

Hugh Jackman’s back for an X-Men prequel set 17 years before the action of the first movie.The film traces the early career of Logan, the indestructible mutant who will one day be X-Man Wolverine. Cameos from future X-Men and the chance to see how Logan acquired his deadly claws and curious hairdo give the film a geek power that will set the internet buzzing ahead of the premiere. It will be interesting to see how this performs after thethird X-Men movie was seen by many to be something of a mis-step in the X-franchise.

4: Watchmen (March)

Alan Moore’s superlative comic book finally, against the author’s will, reaches the big screen. There’s little doubt for anyone who’s read the original comic that this movie will be a huge triumph. We know the ending has been amended but every scene that’s been seen so far is slavishly faithful to Dave Gibbons’s original drawings, with just a few costume tweaks to make Nite Owl look a little less ridiculous and Silk Spectre a little bit sexier. How Watchmen will play to audiences who haven’t already been seduced by Moore’s vision of a parallel universe Cold War showdown between the members of a disbanded hero team remains to be seen. You can be sure, however, that every comic geek in the western world will see this film, and either rave about it or rail against it on the internet for evermore.

3: Star Trek (May)

J.J. Abrams attempts to reinvigorate the slightly tired Star Trek franchise with a story set immediately before the action of the first TV series. Winona Ryder looks set for a return to the big leagues as Amanda Grayson – Spock’s mum. British geek god Simon Pegg turns up as Scotty, and Zachary Quinto the dark presence at the heart of TV’s Heroes certainly looks the part as a young Spock. Expect tricksy time travel shenanigans, freak transporter accidents and a clever, ubiquitous and ultimately slightly annoying viral marketing campaign

2: Public Enemies (July)

Creator of Miami Vice Michael Mann guides the apparently tireless Christian Bale (who appears to be in every movie of any note these days) and Johnny Depp in a period gangster romp about the FBI’s search for John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd that is perfectly timed to chime with the new Great Depression

1: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July)

Harry Potter fans will already have a fairly good idea of what happens in this, the sixth film in the hugely popular boy wizard film adapted from JK Rowling’s all-conquering books. It was an early script draft of this film that prompted Rowling to ‘out’ Dumbledore while promoting the final Potter book


The Kercher trial: Amanda Knox snared by her lust and her lies

What really happened on the night that Meredith Kercher was brutally murdered has become obscured amid endlessly changing alibis and disputed evidence

Amanda Knox in court

Knox with Raffaele Sollecito in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Meredith Kercher

For 11 months Amanda Knox remained impassive as she sat in a Perugia courtroom, assailed by the accusations of prosecutors and a series of harrowing crime-scene photographs and films.

Even when she was sentenced to 26 years in prison for murdering the 21-year-old British exchange student Meredith Kercher, she bowed her head and wept noiselessly, burying her head in her lawyer’s chest.

It was only as she was leaving the courtroom just after midnight yesterday morning and was being led back to the prison van by armed guards that she truly cracked. “No, no, no!” she shouted in desperation.

After 12 hours of deliberations with a colleague and six jurors, Judge Giancarlo Massei read the verdict in a low monotone in the frescoed courtroom in the picturesque hilltop city of Perugia in central Italy.

Seattle-born Knox, 22, and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 25, an IT graduate from southern Italy, were pronounced guilty of sexually abusing and murdering Kercher. Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years in jail. Both will appeal against the verdict.

The victim’s parents, Arline and John, her sister, Stephanie, and her brothers, John Jr and Lyle, were in court. Yesterday Lyle Kercher said at a news conference: “We are pleased with the decision but this is not a time for celebration; it’s not a moment of triumph. We got here because our sister was brutally murdered.”

Meredith Kercher was indeed only a fleeting figure in the trial, with attention both in and outside the courtroom focusing on Knox.

“Foxy Knoxy” — a nickname earned from her footballing skills as a child — was an intriguing figure. She came from a good home, was highly intelligent and had lots of friends: could she really have been involved in such a vicious murder?

Was she “an unscrupulous and manipulative she-devil”, as alleged by the prosecution, or “a wholesome girl” wrongly accused, as the defence said?

The protracted nature of the trial — with sittings taking place on three days a week at most — added to the confusion in many minds. Ever-evolving alibis, new witnesses, disputes over forensic evidence and the fact that a third man — Rudy Guede, a 22-year-old Ivorian drifter — had already been convicted of the murder after a fast-track trial last October only made matters worse.

Even now there are many gaps in the story but, after the guilty verdicts, the events that led to the murder of Kercher on November 1, 2007, can be pieced together.

IT WAS the foreigner’s “Italian dream” that brought victim and killer together. Both Kercher, from Coulsdon, Surrey, and Knox, from Seattle, in America’s northwest, were embarking on a year abroad to improve their Italian, which they were studying as part of their degrees.

They chose Perugia, which was popular among overseas students as a small but vibrant walled city in Umbria with a large population of fellow undergraduates. Both enrolled at its University for Foreigners.

In the summer of 2007 Kercher and two other girls were already living at the whitewashed cottage with views of rolling hills and cypress trees when Knox moved in. At first, the two women were friendly.

Kercher, reading politics and language at Leeds University, introduced Knox, a gifted, Jesuit-educated student, to her English friends, showed her where to shop and toured a chocolate festival with her.

But the relationship soon soured. Kercher, a cheerful and hard-working young woman, had budding reservations about her flatmate. According to friends, she grew more and more exasperated by Knox’s behaviour — she failed to flush the toilet, kept strumming the same chord on her guitar, and brought “strange men” to the cottage.

Indeed, it appears that it was Knox’s sex life that really drove a wedge between the women.

Knox’s sexuality featured heavily in the prosecution case, illuminated by a diary entry in which she listed seven partners, three of whom she slept with after her arrival in Italy (the list excluded Sollecito). Among them was a man she met and had sex with on the train on her way to Perugia. On Facebook, she put down as her interests “men”.

Kercher had already remarked to her father that “Amanda arrived only a week ago and she already has a boyfriend”. Later she told friends that she was shocked to see Knox leave a beauty case with a vibrator and condoms in open view in the bathroom.

We do not know what comments passed between the women, but the prosecution argued that Kercher’s criticism of Knox’s sex life — whether perceived or direct — helped spark in the American a deep hatred of her flatmate, which eventually led to her murder.

If that motive seems slim, it was just part of what was a perplexing case for both prosecutors and observers.

On November 1, Kercher spent the early part of her last evening watching the romantic film The Notebook and eating a home-made pizza at the home of English friends.

Shortly before nine o’clock she left with her friend Sophie Purton; the two parted company outside the latter’s house and Kercher walked on alone, heading down a winding, cobbled alley that leads towards the cottage.

When Giuliano Mignini, the lead prosecutor, offered his reconstruction of what followed he was careful to point out that nobody knew for certain how events spiralled into sexual abuse and murder. A colleague said that precisely what happened that night “is known only to God”. Nevertheless, the reconstruction was based on examination of Kercher’s 43 wounds and bruises, on forensic evidence such as Guede’s DNA found in her body, and on studies such as a blood-splatter analysis on the cupboard in Kercher’s room.

According to Mignini’s reconstruction, Kercher arrived home and shortly afterwards Knox turned up with Sollecito and Guede, who was strongly attracted to Knox. The two other housemates were away.

The prosecutor believes Knox and Kercher started rowing — either because Kercher was looking for some missing money or was annoyed by Knox bringing both Sollecito and Guede to the cottage.

The row soon escalated. Knox, Sollecito and Guede, “under the influence of drugs and maybe of alcohol, decided in any case to involve Kercher in a heavy sex game”, Mignini said. The two young men took part in the assault “to please Knox, because they were competing to please her”.

Kercher was grabbed by the throat — by Knox, said Mignini — flung against the cupboard and then threatened with a kitchen knife with a 6½in blade. Sollecito, standing next to Knox, grabbed Kercher’s hair.

Kercher fell between the bed and the cupboard and her jeans were pulled off. Forensic evidence indicated that Guede groped her and Sollecito produced a second knife and ripped off Kercher’s bra.

Realising that the violence was unstoppable, Kercher gave a desperate scream — a cry that was heard by Nara Capezzali, an elderly neighbour who said it was so chilling she felt as if she was “in a house of horrors”.

Knox then stabbed Kercher, inflicting the deepest of three wounds to her neck. The American’s DNA was later found on the handle of a kitchen knife which had Kercher’s blood on the blade.

As Kercher lay dying in agony — the autopsy found it took her several minutes to die as she inhaled her own blood — Knox and Sollecito fled. Guede stayed and tried to stop the blood coming out of Kercher’s neck with a couple of towels. He, too, then fled.

The scene was discovered the next day when police came to investigate why two mobile phones that belonged to Kercher had been thrown into a neighbour’s garden. They found Knox and Sollecito sitting outside and a house that had apparently been burgled.

Some time during the night, the couple had returned to the cottage and faked a burglary in the room of another housemate. But as the police picked through the broken glass they were told that nothing had been stolen.

They would have left it at that had not the housemate asked insistently why the door to Kercher’s room was locked shut. Eventually, it was knocked down.

Kercher lay virtually naked on the floor, her two cotton tops rolled up above her chest. Oddly, her body was partly covered by a beige quilt.

Investigators were initially perplexed. Who could want to kill Kercher? They turned first to the students downstairs and then to her acquaintances.

However, attention soon turned to Knox. Her cold, detached manner at the police station a few hours later stunned both investigators and Kercher’s friends. When one friend, Natalie Hayward, said she hoped Kercher did not suffer, Knox burst out: “What do you think? They cut her throat, Natalie. She f****** bled to death!”

Investigators were also struck by a gesture she made repeatedly in front of them over the next few days. “She’d press her hands to her temples and shake her head, as if she was trying to empty her brain of something she’d been through,” one of them recalled.

A short story she had written for her creative writing class at the University of Washington in Seattle also attracted attention. Entitled Baby Brother, it told of a young woman drugged and raped by another young woman. One passage read: “She fell on the floor, she felt the blood on her mouth and swallowed it. She couldn’t move her jaw and felt as if someone was moving a razor on the left side of her face.”

While the defence could dismiss this as the product of an active imagination, it was more difficult to explain the emerging DNA evidence, including the knife that was found not at the cottage but at Sollecito’s flat.

On the clasp of Kercher’s bloodied bra, tests also found DNA belonging to her, Sollecito and Guede. Tests with luminol — a chemical that turns blue in the search for blood — detected bloody footprints in the cottage that matched those of Knox and Sollecito.

The quilt, said the prosecution, was also a sign of Knox’s guilt: she could not stand the sight of Kercher’s wounded body, and had covered it in a gesture of female pity.

Although Sollecito claimed he had never met Guede, a university graduate testified he had seen them together with Kercher and Knox outside the cottage two days before the murder.

Knox also had to explain why she had initially accused Patrick Lumumba, owner of the bar Le Chic, where she worked, of killing Kercher. She had said she was cowering in the kitchen covering her ears while he committed the crime.

Lumumba was cleared after witnesses testified that he was at Le Chic on the night of the murder, claims backed up by till receipts. Knox said she had made the accusation because she was exhausted and stressed by a total of more than 50 hours of police questioning.

Knox and Sollecito have insisted that they had spent the evening and night of the murder at his flat, and that she returned to the cottage only the following morning. They had watched the French romantic comedy Amélie — one lawyer compared Knox to the film’s faux-naive heroine, played by Audrey Tautou — had fish for dinner, smoked cannabis and made love.

In court, the defence of Knox and Sollecito pinned all the blame for the murder on Guede and rubbished the forensic evidence — apart, of course, from that which implicated the Ivorian.

They claimed that the clasp of Kercher’s bloodied bra had been “accidentally contaminated” with Sollecito’s trace in the laboratory of the forensic police in Rome; that the kitchen knife was inconsistent with Kercher’s wounds and was wrongly handled by forensic scientists. All of this will form part of their appeal.

Before the verdict, Knox’s family disclosed they had a bought a plane ticket for her return home to Seattle. Afterwards, her father branded the verdict “a failure of the Italian judicial system and literally a failure for the city of Perugia ... as well as Italy as a whole”.

The character of his daughter continues to be a subject of public fascination, with a girl-next-door now convicted of murdering her flatmate.

Professor David Canter, director of the centre for investigative psychology at Liverpool University, said Knox seemed to lack many of the typical hallmarks of sexually motivated murderers and as such she presented an unlikely offender profile.

“Most bizarre murders, particularly those with a lot of sexual activity and if there are drugs involved, come out of a lifestyle that’s pretty dysfunctional in which there’s some sort of build-up. So it’s unusual for apparently capable and functioning youngsters to get caught up in all this,” he said.

Under the media spotlight at the trial, Knox appeared at first relaxed and even cheerful, chatting happily with her lawyers and prison guards as she gesticulated Italian-style with her hands. After this behaviour drew unfavourable headlines, she turned more sober, sitting mostly immobile, frowning slightly in concentration.

She then stunned many in court by wearing an oversized white T-shirt for a hearing on St Valentine’s Day. On it, marked in big red letters, was a lyric by her favourite group, the Beatles: “All you need is love.”

In the women’s wing of the Capanne prison outside Perugia, she has kept up an impressive pace in studying languages including German, Russian and Chinese, taking guitar lessons, teaching yoga and English to fellow prisoners and reading widely, including Anna Karenina and books on philosophy and religion.

She spent the first night of her sentence in tears, according to a visitor. Her appeal will not be heard until the autumn of next year. If the conviction is confirmed, she has one last resort — Italy’s Supreme Court.

KERCHER was largely lost in the hue and cry surrounding Knox. Her story was not often brought up at the trial — except at its very end.

As he requested the life sentences, Mignini told the court: “The most serious mistake you could make now is to look only at the accused, forgetting what they are accused of and the victim of the crime. Instead you must remember her, especially now.”

When she was killed, Kercher had been due to go home to London to celebrate the birthday of her mother, Arline. Instead, said Mignini, “she will never go home again to hug her loved ones. She was killed in a horrifying way and now her relatives can only go to the cemetery and stand quietly in front of her grave”.

Death in Perugia: The definitive account of the murder of Meredith Kercher, by John Follain, will be published in January 2011


In Amanda Knox’s home city of Seattle, there was a predictably appalled reaction to her guilty verdict, writes Tony Allen-Mills in New York.

The Seattle Times newspaper noted that “her battle for freedom headed sharply uphill”, while profiling those who had campaigned for her.

Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Knox’s home state of Washington, said she was “saddened” by the verdict. “I have serious questions about the Italian justice system and whether anti-Americanism tainted this trial.”

Other US experts who followed the case have warned that attacking Italy’s system of justice might prove counterproductive. “I’m not sure I would have tried to indict the criminal justice system in defending her,” said Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler. “That may come back to haunt them.”

Peggy Ganong, an Italian-speaking Seattle blogger who followed the case closely, said: “The implication was that Italian forensics are inferior to American forensics, and I think that’s just not true. The forensic evidence was a lot stronger than her supporters said.”

Online reaction was divided, with some commentators outraged by what they saw as politically motivated Italian chicanery, and others reluctant to believe an Italian jury would act any differently from an American one.

One online comment noted wryly: “If she wanted an American trial, she should have murdered in America.”


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