The media has dubbed Madeleine Smith as the 19th century Amanda Knox. Although both murder trials took place over 150 years apart, both women were 20 years old at the time of their trial. A few people have also pointed out other similarities between both trials.
Madeleine was accused of killing her lover Emile L’Angelier, in 1857, in a bid for him not to expose their sexual rendezvous. Her father, James Smith, had earlier disapproved of her relationship with L’Angelier, who he considered a penniless clerk. He also forbade her from seeing him.
What James and the rest of the Smith family didn’t know was how far their daughter and sibling had gone with L’Angelier. They had been intimate and were exchanging letters alluding to their sexual intimacies. James Smith then approved of a courtship between Madeleine and William Minoch, who was a richer bachelor.
Madeleine began courting Minoch by day and visiting L’Angelier by night. When she got tired of this arrangement, she decided to settle for Minoch. She then requested L’Angelier to send back her letters, which he refused. A few months later, he died from poisoning.
Amanda Knox, on the other hand, was accused of killing her roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007. Both Amanda and Meredith had come to Italy as exchange students and met in September 2007. The following month they both attended the Eurochocolate festival and a classical music concert together.
By November 2007, Kercher was found dead with signs of violence. Even though both murder cases were different, one element was common in both cases: sex.
The Appeal of Sex and Death
During the Victorian era and now, sex and death was and is still a sensational tale for the tabloids. As separate entities, sex sells, and death sells. When you add both together, you have a media frenzy.
Madeline’s accusation for killing Emilie became the murder of the century for the same reason. The amount of attention that the murder story garnered was seemingly due to her voracious appetite for sex. At least 198 letters were found from her in Emilie’s office and apartment after he died. It was the discovery of the letters between her and her lover that led to her arrest.
These letters were an essential part of Madeleine’s trial and read in court to the hearing of all. Newspapers flooded with details of the explicit content of her messages. A young woman of Glasgow’s genteel society had slept with a man, enjoyed it, and went ahead to describe her pleasure in detail.
This information was appalling. In some of Madeleine’s letters, she talked about “tender long embraces” and “being fondled by you.” She further went to state that she didn’t regret what they did. Her honesty about sex was what shocked many.
However, was there something wrong about her appeal for sex during her day? Some people may have thought her sexual appetite was unnatural. Others may think she had been ingesting a kind of energy booster like the Keto diet pills with no additives that we have today. Afterall, decency was expected from mid-class to upper-class women during the Victorian era.
What if Madeleine had lived in our day? Maybe the shock about how much she enjoyed sex wouldn’t be there. However, there would still be the appeal of sex in the media. Such was the case of Amanda Knox.
One of the accused, Rudy Guede, had denied Amanda’s involvement. However, during his appeal, he claimed that she had been in the apartment at the time of the murder. Prosecutors for Amanda’s case managed to bring in the sexual element.
Although the discovery of Madeleine’s sexual appetite weighed heavily on her, what sexual motive would Amanda Knox probably have to kill another woman? It didn’t make any sense.
The prosecution suggested that she killed her roommate due to a sexual game they were playing. They suggested that she may have taunted Kercher, saying, “You acted goody-goody so much… now you’re going to be forced to have sex!”
They further suggested that Guede, Amanda, and Amanda’s boyfriend had held on to Kercher while Guede sexually abused her.
Results from Both Trials
Another similarity between both trials were the results the women received. After six days of trial, Madeleine Smith got a “non-proven” verdict. Even though many members of the jury believed she did it, they just couldn’t prove that she did. She ended up walking away as a free woman. Till today no one knows for sure who killed Pierre Emilie L’Angelier.
Amanda Knox was not as lucky as Madeleine in the beginning. She was initially found guilty and sentenced to 26 years in jail. After spending four years in prison, the court later acquitted her of the murder due to evidence that proved she didn’t commit the crime.
Madeleine Smith left Glasgow after her trial ended and changed her name to Lena. She got married to George Wardle, had two kids for him, and they later got divorced. She then moved to the US and married William Sheehy. Madeleine passed on in 1928, bearing the name Lena Sheehy.
Amanda went back to America and wrote a book about her trial. Today, she’s married to Christopher Robinson, an author. She speaks at different events, and she’s an activist for wrongfully convicted people.