Italy’s highest criminal court has today overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox over the murder of her roommate, and ordered a new trial.
The Court of Cassation in Rome ruled today that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher.
The body of Miss Kercher, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was found in November 2007 in her bedroom at the house she shared with Knox and other roommates in Perugia, an Italian university town where the two women were exchange students. Her throat had been slashed.
Prosecutors alleged that the Leeds University student was the victim of a drug-fuelled sex game gone awry.
Knox and Sollecito denied wrongdoing.
An Ivory Coast man, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the murder in a separate hearing and is serving a 16-year sentence.
The exact issues which have to be reconsidered will not be known until the court releases its full ruling.
Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito looked grim as they huddled with prosecutors and court officials to get details after the ruling was issued.
Lawyers for the Kercher family said they had got what they wanted.
Knox and Sollecito denied wrongdoing and said they were not even in the apartment the night Miss Kercher died, though they acknowledged they had smoked marijuana and their memories were clouded.
They were initially convicted of the murder along with Guede and given long prison sentences, but were then acquitted on appeal and released.
Today's high court ruling overturns the appeals court acquittals.
Italian law cannot compel Knox to return from the US for the new trial. The appellate court hearing the case could declare her in contempt of court but that carries no additional penalties.
It is unclear what would happen if she was convicted in a new appeals trial.
"If the court orders another trial, if she is convicted at that trial and if the conviction is upheld by the highest court, then Italy could seek her extradition," Knox's lawyer, Carlo Dalla, Vedova said yesterday.
It would then be up to the US to decide if it honours the request. US and Italian authorities could also come to a deal that would keep Knox in America.
Knox, now 25, and Sollecito, 29 today, were arrested shortly after Miss Kercher's body was found in a pool of blood.
The appeals court that acquitted them in 2011 criticised virtually the entire case mounted by prosecutors. The appellate court noted that the murder weapon was never found, said that DNA tests were faulty and that prosecutors provided no murder motive.
After nearly four years behind bars in Italy, Knox returned to her hometown of Seattle and Sollecito resumed his computer science studies, following the degree he successfully earned while studying in prison.
Knox is now a student at the University of Washington, according to her family spokesman, Dave Marriott.
Italy's judicial system allows for two levels of appeals, and prosecutors can appeal acquittals.
Although the court yesterday heard gruesome details, including how Miss Kercher choked on her own blood, it was not ruling on the guilt or innocence of the defendants. Its sole task was to decide if the appellate trial was properly conducted.
Details of today's ruling issued are not expected to be issued for several weeks.