Knox returns home as Kerchers left in anguish

AMERICAN student Amanda Knox arrived home free last night after spending four years in an Italian jail, leaving the family of murdered British student Meredith Kercher racked with anguish that they are no closer to the truth about her killing.

Knox, cleared of the murder by an appeals court on Monday night, left Rome shortly before midday for London where she and her family were boarding a connecting flight to their home in Seattle.

The 24-year-old broke down sobbing and nearly collapsed with emotion on Monday night after an appeals court in Perugia ruled she and her former boyfriend, Italian computer student Raffaele Sollecito, were not guilty of killing Kercher and should be freed immediately.

Prosecutors said yesterday they would appeal against the ruling and Kercher’s family said their ordeal and the search for answers about the murder would go on.

“We’re still absorbing it. You think you’ve come to a decision and now it’s been overturned,” Meredith’s mother Arline told reporters.

The prosecution will appeal to the Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest appeals court, which will rule on the legal merits of how the case was conducted, probably early next year.

The verdict was an embarrassment for the prosecutor and Italian police investigators. Independent forensic experts criticised police scientific evidence in the original investigation, saying it was unreliable.

Kercher’s half-naked body, with more than 40 wounds, was found in 2007 in the apartment she shared with Knox in the Umbrian hill town of Perugia.

Her sister Stephanie said the family would wait for the written explanation of the acquittal verdict in the hope that all the killers would eventually be found.

“That’s the biggest disappointment — not knowing still and knowing that there is someone or people out there who have done this,” she said.

Ivorian drug dealer Rudy Guede is serving a 16-year sentence for his role in the murder. But investigators believe more than one person held Kercher down while she was stabbed and had her throat cut.

“I understand the courts agreed that he wasn’t acting alone,” said Meredith’s brother Lyle. “Of course if those released are not the guilty party, we are now obviously left wondering who is the other person or people.”

The appeal trial gripped attention on both sides of the Atlantic. There was an outpouring of sympathy and outrage from many in the United States who regarded Knox as an innocent girl caught in the clutches of a medieval justice system.

The Knox family conducted a relentless and well organised public relations campaign to convince the world of their daughter’s innocence and counteract both a lurid media image of “Foxy Knoxy,” and the prosecution’s portrayal of her as a sex-obsessed and manipulative “she-devil”.

The family were familiar figures on US talk shows and in Perugia during the trial, assiduously courted by television networks eager for the first interview.

“She has earning power now that she is free,” said Candace Dempsey, Seattle-based author of “Murder in Italy,” one of around a dozen books that have already been written on the case. “She can write a book and she can certainly help her family pay back the bills. She is a beautiful girl and she has a dramatic story to tell,” she said.

The Knox family engaged the services of Gogerty Marriott, a Seattle-based public relations firm, to run what the prosecution described as a “million dollar campaign,” backed by an internet donor drive and fund-raising events at home.

The Knox family have been quoted as saying they have had to re-mortgage their house to support their legal and other bills but their representatives in Italy were tight-lipped over what the appeal has cost the family.

‘Far-fetched’ prosecution case criticized

By Tom Lawrence

THE dramatic release of Amanda Knox has been widely welcomed by the US media, with a number of journalists arguing she should never have been found guilty of Meredith Kercher’s murder.

Articles written in the wake of the 24-year-old American’s courtroom victory have been heavily critical of the Italian prosecutors’ “far-fetched” case against her, with one comparing her treatment to the Salem witch trials of 1692.

But they also praised the Italian justice system for allowing Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, to automatically appeal their convictions.

In an editorial, Knox’s hometown newspaper, The Seattle Times, said the jury which overturned Knox’s conviction concluded “what many have long suspected”.

It said: “The case against former University of Washington student Amanda Knox was always just too far-fetched.

“An Italian jury concluded what many have long suspected — Knox certainly was guilty of goofy, insensitive behaviour and pot use. But there was never sufficient evidence to prove she murdered her roommate, whom she knew only a few weeks.”

Meanwhile, New York Times journalist Timothy Egan said there were lessons to be learned from the case.

In an article published on its website, he wrote that the tragic junior “year” abroad was over, at long last, for Knox.

“For that, we have to thank an Italian legal system that essentially gives every convicted criminal a do-over — more formally, an appeal before fresh eyes. Bravo for Italy.”

Egan said the jurors came to the same conclusion that any fair-minded person would have done, and declared: “There was no way, based on forensic evidence that was a joke by international standards and a non-existent motive that played to medieval superstitions, to find Knox and her boyfriend Sollecito guilty of the 2007 killing of Meredith Kercher, her British roommate in Perugia.”

Nina Burleigh, of the Los Angeles Times, claimed Knox was subjected to “misogynistic” behaviour in the case against her — which was driven by “her femaleness, her Americanness, her beauty”.

Italian newspapers argued the acquittals were inevitable given the problems with the investigation that were highlighted in the appeal but there was still no convincing picture of what happened that night.

La Stampa said in an editorial: “It is unpleasant that the murder of a young woman remains in large part unexplained.

“This is not a victory for justice. It’s an acquittal that leaves a bitter taste.”

British tabloids played up the drama of Knox’s release — and the Kerchers’ pain.

Set to make millions from her story

By John Fahey

AMANDA KNOX could earn up to €25 million following her story, but she should give some to the family of Meredith Kercher, said PR guru Max Clifford.

The 24-year-old American has the eyes of the world on her after her murder conviction was overturned almost four years after the British student was killed in Perugia.

Her advisers will have already been deluged with media offers, said Clifford.

“You are talking about millions,” he said.

“It’s a huge story and of course it’s still going on. People have so many questions about what really happened.

“The story has dominated the headlines for the last four years.

“With the big television interviews, like Oprah, the book deal, film rights and if the book and film are successful she’s going to be making millions... up to €25 million.

“From a PR point of view, most people doubt the verdict.

“Therefore one of the things she should do is donate to the Kercher family, so that would at least get her some public support.”

Clifford said Knox’s advisers would launch a “massive PR operation”.

“There is a massive PR operation that needs to go on and change the public perception of her. The more successful that is, the more appealing.”

Picture: Amanda Knox smiles as she leaves the Leonardo Da Vinci airport in Fiumicino for a flight home to the US. Picture: Reuters

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